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Andrew Wheeler. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Acting EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler told senators during his confirmation hearing Wednesday, "I think the biggest issue with wildfires is forest management ... not drought."

Why it matters: Studies show that climate change, which is leading to hotter, drier summers in California, is tied to the sharp increase in large wildfires in that state and other parts of the West, along with a lengthening fire season, Axios' Andrew Freedman notes. Forest management and population growth are also factors, but they don't explain the entire situation.

Other highlights from the hearing...

  • On carbon emissions: Wheeler, a former coal lobbyist, said he expects carbon emissions from power plants will fall more than 30% below 2005 levels by 2030 under the Affordable Clean Energy rule (ACE), a rule that pushes for greater coal plant efficiency.
    • Reality check: A new paper in Environmental Research Letters predicts carbon emissions will actually see increases as high as 9% in 18 states in 2030 as a result of ACE. The EPA itself has said any reduction in CO2 in coming years will almost entirely be market-driven and would only amount to about a 0.7–1.5% reduction.
  • On if climate change is a hoax: "I’ve not used the hoax word myself," Wheeler said in a response to a question from Sen. Bernie Sanders, (I-Vt.).

Go deeper: Andrew Wheeler's confirmation hearing could be a 2020 practice round

Go deeper

Biden Cabinet confirmation schedule: When to watch hearings

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris on Jan. 16 in Wilmington, Delaware. Photo: Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Images

The first hearings for President-elect Joe Biden's Cabinet nominations begin on Tuesday, with testimony from his picks to lead the departments of State, Homeland and Defense.

Why it matters: It's been a slow start for a process that usually takes place days or weeks earlier for incoming presidents. The first slate of nominees will appear on Tuesday before a Republican-controlled Senate, but that will change once the new Democratic senators-elect from Georgia are sworn in.

Kamala Harris resigns from Senate seat ahead of inauguration

Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. Photo: Mason Trinca/Getty Images

Vice President-elect Kamala Harris submitted her resignation from her seat in the U.S. Senate on Monday, two days before she will be sworn into her new role.

What's next: California Gov. Gavin Newsom has selected California Secretary of State Alex Padilla to serve out the rest of Harris' term, which ends in 2022.

3 hours ago - World

Putin foe Navalny to be detained for 30 days after returning to Moscow

Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny. Photo: Oleg Nikishin/Epsilon/Getty Images

Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny has been ordered to remain in pre-trial detention for 30 days, following his arrest upon returning to Russia on Sunday for the first time since a failed assassination attempt last year.

Why it matters: The detention of Navalny, an anti-corruption activist and the most prominent domestic critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, has already set off a chorus of condemnations from leaders in Europe and the U.S.