President Donald Trump announced during a White House ceremony for Medal of Freedom recipients today that he plans to nominate Andrew Wheeler to be the EPA’s Senate-confirmed administrator, the Hill reported.
“He’s done a fantastic job and I want to congratulate him,” the President said of Wheeler, who is currently the acting Administrator for the environmental agency. “Congratulations, Andrew.”
Wheeler took up his acting position in July — after the resignation of former EPA chief Scott Pruitt, who was facing several accusations of misconduct and lavish spending. Prior to his work in the government, Wheeler was a lobbyist and lawyer for energy companies, including coal mining giant Murray Energy Corp.
Before taking up the new position, a majority of senators will need to confirm Wheeler’s nomination after it is submitted to the Senate by President Trump.
“If the president intends to nominate Andrew Wheeler to be Administrator of the EPA, then Mr. Wheeler must come before our committee so that members can look at his record as acting administrator objectively to see if any improvements have been made at the agency since he took the helm,” Senator Tom Carper said in a statement. Carper is the top Democrat on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, and will be in charge of the initial hearing and vote on Wheeler’s nomination.
Though Wheeler is considered a less controversial EPA administrator than his predecessor, the Hill noted that he has still “aggressively pursued a deregulatory agenda,” and has overseen some of the most “consequential” EPA actions on President Trump’s behalf — including proposing rules to roll back or repeal carbon limits on power plants and to relax fuel efficiency standards for vehicles.
“I will try to work to implement the president’s agenda,” he told the Washington Post shortly after taking over the environmental agency over the summer. “I don’t think the overall agenda is going to change that much, because we’re implementing what the president has laid out for the agency.”
— The Hill (@thehill) November 16, 2018
Wheeler has faced several criticisms from environmental groups, some of whom are calling for him not to be confirmed into the position of EPA Administrator.
“Putting a coal lobbyist like Andrew Wheeler in charge of the EPA is like giving a thief the keys to a bank vault,” Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune said. “There shouldn’t be a single day when the Administrator of the EPA schemes with corporate polluters to attack public health, but Wheeler has made it a regular habit because he is unable to give up his corporate polluter ties.”
Environmental Working Group President Ken Cook told the Washington Post that in “normal times” the top official of an environmental protection organization would not be an avid supporter of fossil fuels.
“But this is the Trump administration, where a former top coal lobbyist could become administrator of the EPA,” he said.