Extinction Rebellion protests US EPA head at
Protests disrupted proceedings at a Cambridge Union event last night.
On the bill was Andrew Wheeler, head of the US Environmental Agency, whose pro-coal views and policies have outraged climate change campaigners and resulted in his being described as "one of the most skilled regulatory hitmen the fossil-fuel industry has ever deployed".
Extinction Rebellion supporters held a very vocal demonstration in nearby Park Street - the nearest they were allowed to the Bridge Street home of the world's oldest continuously running debating society - and five protestors inside the chamber staged a highly visual show of bloodied hands before being peaceably escorted from the building by security.
On Park Street a crowd gathered and cars slowed as the activists played and sang loudly enough to be heard inside the Union.
"We're here to protest against Cambridge Union giving a platform to someone whose pro-coal stance as a lobbyist and administrator is well known and poses a huge threat to human health, wildlife and the environment," one of the protestors told the Cambridge Independent.
"Andrew Wheeler is complicit in climate change breakdown and the mass extinction of life and his views must be challenged if we're going to ensure our planet's survival," said another. "This is the nearest we can get to the Union because of the heavy security they're put in place there."
Andrew Wheeler became administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency in January. Climate change "is not the greatest crisis", he said at his confirmation hearing, while positioning the US as the “gold standard for environmental progress”. According to a Guardian report, Wheeler was at the time working on rollbacks and regulations that would benefit coal companies. Until 2017, Wheeler represented coal company Murray Energy in his role as a lobbyist for Faegre Baker Daniels. Murray Energy "wrote the administration a list of rule changes that would help the industry, and they are largely under way", according to a report in the Guardian. The New York Times has identified 78 environmental rules being discarded by President Trump.
In a recent interview with the Financial Times, the head of the EPA said that there is a “definite possibility” that some US coal mines could be reopened, adding: “I still question the 2C — how do we know that’s the tipping point? I do not question that we need to do something, but I think we need to have a healthier, open discussion around some of the scientific questions.”
Extinction Rebellion Cambridge commented: "Wheeler’s EPA has proposed the rollback of rules to cut carbon pollution from coal power plants, a rollback that would also allow more toxic mercury to be pumped into the air. Under Wheeler’s command the EPA has also proposed to undo protections for wetlands and streams that keep water safe to drink. The EPA he leads is also fighting to ensure a brain-damaging and insect-killing chemical, chlorpyrifos, can continue to be sprayed on farmland crops in defiance of scientific warnings.
"Wheeler is a climate denier who has consistently put personal gain and profits above life and planetary health. As a lobbyist for coal company Murray Energy he was paid more than $3million to lobby against climate regulation and in that role sought to reclassify greenhouse gases as harmless.
"Andrew Wheeler is complicit in climate breakdown and the mass extinction of life and entirely unfit to lead the EPA. People such as Wheeler, who seek to advance an ecocidal agenda and who place financial profit above life, will never be welcome in our city.”
A spokesperson for the Union told Varsity: "The Union was able to host one of the world's most powerful people in global climate policy, and the Speakers' Officer and members thoroughly challenged and engaged with his views. We hope to continue upholding free speech within our Chamber, by debating and challenging those that shape the world around us."
Coming soon to the Union? Jared Kushner, senior advisor to the White House and President Trump's son-in-law.
More by this authorMike Scialom