During his first interview since being confirmed last week, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler admitted that he does not view climate change as the most significant environmental issue facing the country, according to Media Matters.
Speaking with guest host Charles Payne on Fox News' Your World with Neil Cavuto on Monday, Wheeler pointed to potable drinking water as the number one environmental problem.
“As far as the largest environmental issue facing the planet today, I would have to say is water. The fact that a million people still die a year from lack of potable drinking water is a crisis,” Wheeler began.
As for climate change? “I don’t see it as the existential threat, no. We have a lot of environmental threats, we have a lot of environmental problems, but we’re working to address all of them,” the former coal industry lobbyist said.
Wheeler’s mention of drinking water is notable for two reasons: as Media Matters noted, “water and climate change are inexorably linked, and worsening global warming will affect not just the quantity but the quality of drinking water”; and further, the EPA has proposed to weaken federal water protections, potentially to the detriment of wildlife as well as Americans’ drinking water.
Wheeler also touted his agency’s proposal for lower fuel-efficiency standards, under which he claimed “the price of a car should go down by about $2,300,” but Wheeler “failed to note that these rollbacks would significantly increase CO2 emissions and could lead to declines in safety.”
On the topic of carbon dioxide more broadly, Wheeler said that “CO2 emissions peaked here in 2005; they’ve been declining ever since,” though he omitted “the fact that U.S. emissions actually rose sharply in 2018.”