As with his other choices to fill top environmental and energy positions, President Donald Trump’s announced intention to nominate Andrew Wheeler to be EPA’s deputy administrator earned both praise and criticism.
Wheeler has a long track record in environmental and energy policy, including influential positions in Congress. He was also a registered lobbyist for Murray Energy, the world’s largest coal mining company; he resigned from that position in August 2017. Currently, Wheeler is a principal with Faegre Baker Daniels Consulting, a law firm that advises industry on energy and environmental policy and regulations. He also serves as vice president of the Washington Coal Club.
The deputy administrator position at the EPA is generally regarded as the second most powerful job at the Agency and has been occupied by several of EPA’s most notable officials, including Bob Perciasepe and Stephen L. Johnson.
Headed EPW Staff
EPA’s announcement of Wheeler’s expected nomination states:
“Mr. Wheeler has spent his entire career working in environmental policy. In addition to spending four years at EPA’s Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics during the George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton administrations, he also spent many years on Capitol Hill. After serving as general counsel to U.S. Senator James Inhofe, he worked as staff director and chief counsel for two Senate Committees with vital roles in protecting human health and the environment: the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW) and the U.S. Senate Subcommittee for Clean Air Wetlands and Nuclear Safety.”
‘Fair and Professional’
“There is no one more qualified than Andrew to help Scott Pruitt restore EPA to its proper size and scope,” said Inhofe.
“Manufacturers have welcomed Administrator Pruitt’s efforts to bring balance to rulemaking at the agency and focus on the EPA’s core mission,” said Jay Timmons president and CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers. “We’re confident Andrew will help advance that mission and ensure that our country can achieve the dual goals of responsible environmental stewardship and strong economic growth.” Wheeler also received a subdued endorsement from former Democratic Senator Joe Lieberman.
“Andrew was Republican staff director during part of the time I was on the Senate Environment Committee,” said Lieberman. “We worked together on some issues and disagreed on others. He conducted himself in a fair and professional manner. I hope his nomination will receive similarly fair consideration by the Senate.”
‘Friend to Polluters’
There was nothing subdued about the Sierra Club’s response to the announced nomination.
“Halloween apparently came early this October because the nomination of Andrew Wheeler as Deputy EPA Administrator is absolutely horrifying,” said Melinda Pierce, Sierra Club’s legislative director. “Andrew Wheeler is a big time lobbyist who has represented Big Coal for almost a decade, including in numerous lawsuits challenging the EPA. He is a friend to polluters, not to American families that rely on clean air and clean water. Wheeler has spent his career challenging the vital lifesaving environmental protections that keep our air and water clean so that we can keep our families safe. Wheeler is not only a key D.C. lobbyist for the coal industry, but also used to be an aide for Senator James Inhofe, one of the nation’s most backward climate science deniers. Wheeler is unfit for the job as Deputy EPA Administrator, given his obvious conflicts of interest working for the coal industry.”
In January 2017, Trump signed an Executive Order (EO) that prevents blocking registered lobbyists from participating in matters on which they lobbied in the past 2 years. However, the EO states that the administration can waive that restriction.