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.
- For example, the Camp fire that killed 86 and destroyed the town of Paradise last year, as well as the Woolsey fire that struck Malibu, mainly took place outside of forested land, in brush and other vegetation. A federal climate assessment released late last year predicts a continued increase in the incidence of large fires in the West as climate change continues.
- The 2018 wildfire season in California was the state's worst on record, and it occurred in a year that featured the state's hottest month in recorded history in July, along with the largest fire the state has ever recorded.
- Of the top 20 largest wildfires in state history, 15 have occurred since the year 2000.
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.).