WASHINGTON — The Senate narrowly confirmed a lawyer for the petrochemical industry on Thursday to a key post at the Environmental Protection Agency to oversee air pollution regulations affecting his former clients.
William Wehrum was approved on a vote of 49 to 47 to serve as assistant administrator for air and radiation. He previously served as a regulator at the EPA under President George W. Bush.
Republican moderate Senator Susan Collins of Maine joined Democrats in voting against President Trump’s nominee. Four senators, two from each party, did not vote.
Wehrum is expected to help administrator Scott Pruitt in an ongoing push to reverse or delay Obama-era regulations. Like Trump, Pruitt disputes the consensus of leading climate scientists that carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels is the primary cause of global warming.
As an attorney, Wehrum represented the interests in Washington of clients that included the American Petroleum Institute, American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers, the American Chemistry Council, and the National Association of Manufacturers.
Wyoming Senator John Barrasso,who chairs the Senate environment committee that weighed Wehrum’s nomination, praised his credentials.
‘‘Bill Wehrum’s three decades of environmental policy experience will be enormously helpful as he works to cut red tape, protect America’s air, and allow our economy to grow,’’ Barrasso said.
Environmentalists worried that Wehrum will help further weaken clean air protections already under assault by the Trump administration.