November 9, 2017 / 5:21 PM / in a year

U.S. Senate confirms top EPA air quality official despite concerns

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Senate voted on Thursday 49-47 to confirm a top air quality official at the Environmental Protection Agency, despite concerns raised by lawmakers over his industry ties.

William Wehrum, who had represented industry clients at law and lobbying firm Hunton & Williams, will serve as the EPA’s assistant administrator for Air and Radiation, its top position for overseeing key air quality regulations.

Wehrum is now only the second high-level EPA official after Administrator Scott Pruitt to be confirmed by Senate.

Wehrum had served as the EPA’s acting assistant administrator for Air and Radiation from 2005 to 2007 under former President George W. Bush. After leaving government, he was the head of the administrative law group at Hunton & Williams focused on air quality issues for industry clients, such as ExxonMobil Corp.

Democratic Senator Tom Carper of Delaware had urged colleagues to reject Wehrum’s confirmation ahead of the vote.

“Bill Wehrum has spent most of his career fighting to dismantle the federal environmental protections that so many states, including Delaware, depend on to clean up toxic air pollution,” Carper said.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Wehrum would “continue the work of this EPA to undo the damage of the Obama administration’s overreach.”

Reporting by Valerie Volcovici; Editing by Tom Brown

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