Acting EPA administrator praises reduced regulation at Pittsburgh shale conference

November 12, 2018

The head of the federal agency tasked with protecting the environment told representatives of shale and natural gas companies he wanted to put innovation in the industry ahead of regulation.

Andrew Wheeler, the acting administer of the Environmental Protection Agency, said Wednesday at an annual shale development conference in Pittsburgh that the country’s formula for success in energy production is to “incentivize innovation, not stifle it with regulation.”

“As President Reagan once said, ‘government’s first duty is to protect the people, not run their lives.’ These principles are not new or unique. They are ingrained in America’s DNA, and they have a new champion of the White House, President Trump,” Wheeler said.

Wheeler was the keynote speaker at the Shale Insight conference Wednesday morning. The conference, a large gathering on shale development and public policy in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio, started Tuesday at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in Downtown Pittsburgh and will conclude Thursday.

As the conference continued inside the convention center, protesters gathered outside to show concern for the growing petrochemical business in the region.

A group of about 50 protesters, including Native American leaders, met at the fountain at Point Park to lead a “Native Water Ceremony” and marched down Liberty Avenue to rally just outside the conference center along the Allegheny River.

“We’ve been told lies. We’ve been told that we need oil and gas because we need to drive our cars. We have the technology to not use oil and gas to drive our cars,” said Jill St. Ledger-Rody, a Seneca Native American spokeswoman.

Sharon Day, an Ojibwe Native American spokeswoman, said her presence at the rally was about more than protecting water, it was about achieving world peace.

“If we can re-establish our connection to the water, and we can respect and love and have gratitude toward the water, and we ourselves are bodies of water ... then in that way, then we really could create world peace,” she said. “Not only with human beings, but with all living beings.”

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto spoke at the rally.

“We look forward to partnering with all of you ... in order to make sure that in Western Pennsylvania, the preservation of our air and water is at the (forefront) of what we do as a region,” Peduto said.

Wheeler, formerly the EPA deputy administrator, took office as acting administrator in July, following the resignation of Scott Pruitt. He is awaiting Senate confirmation.

Wheeler opened his 25-minute speech titled “The New EPA: Fostering Responsible Environmental Protection with American Business,” by thanking those in the room for being a leader on the world stage for producing “more energy than ever.”

He quickly praised the Trump administration for its work on decreasing greenhouse gases and outlined a plan to streamline the regulatory process. Wheeler said that CO2 emissions decreased by 2.7 percent from 2016 to 2017.

“The Trump administration has proven that federal regulations are not necessary to drive greenhouse gas reductions,” Wheeler said.

Wheeler said he wants to bring “greater regulatory certainty” to state agencies and wants to increase communication between the EPA in Washington and state agencies.

“Our goal is to free you to do what you do best, which is to innovate, create and produce,” Wheeler said.

Wheeler said he wants to make EPA’s science and process for coming to its regulatory decisions more accessible to the public.

“In the past, we made decisions based on hidden science,” Wheeler said. “Americans deserve to know the science that is leading their lives.”

Update hourly