Who is Andrew Wheeler, EPA's new acting chief?

Who is Andrew Wheeler, EPA's new acting chief?
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Andrew Wheeler, the deputy administrator at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and a former energy lobbyist, will become the agency’s acting head on Monday after Thursday's resignation of EPA head Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittOvernight Energy: Court orders EPA to enforce chemical safety rule | Dem says Zinke would 'sell' his grandkids for the oil industry | EPA reportedly poised to unveil climate rule replacement Court throws out EPA delay of Obama chemical plant safety rule The Hill's Morning Report: Dems have a majority in the Senate (this week) MORE.

After a series of mounting ethics scandals, President TrumpDonald John TrumpBrennan fires new shot at Trump: ‘He’s drunk on power’ Trump aides discussed using security clearance revocations to distract from negative stories: report Trump tried to dissuade Melania from 'Be Best' anti-bullying campaign: report MORE tweeted Thursday that he had accepted Pruitt’s resignation and that Wheeler will serve as acting head of the EPA.

"I am both humbled and honored to take on this new responsibility at the same agency where I started my career over 25 years ago," Wheeler said in an email to EPA staff later in the afternoon.

The news follows Wheeler telling The Hill last week that he wasn't interested in becoming EPA administrator.

“I’m the deputy administrator, that’s the position I signed up for, that’s the position I wanted. I didn’t want to be the administrator, still don’t want to be the administrator,” Wheeler told The Hill. 


“I’m here to help Administrator Pruitt with his agenda and President Trump’s agenda for the agency. That’s what my job is," he said at the time. 

But Wheeler, who was confirmed in April, is widely seen as a replacement for Pruitt with similar deregulatory goals and facing fewer controversies.

Trump said he expects Wheeler to "continue on with our great and lasting EPA agenda."

“I have no doubt that Andy will continue on with our great and lasting EPA agenda. We have made tremendous progress and the future of the EPA is very bright!" Trump tweeted.

The Senate voted in April, largely along party lines, to confirm Wheeler to the post. All present GOP senators voted for Wheeler, in addition to Democratic Sens. Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyThe Hill's Morning Report: Dems have a majority in the Senate (this week) Schumer to meet with Kavanaugh on Tuesday Supreme Court nomination reignites abortion fights in states MORE (Ind.), Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampThe Hill's Morning Report: Dems have a majority in the Senate (this week) Overnight Health Care: Supreme Court nomination reignites abortion fight in states | Trump urges Sessions to sue opioid makers | FDA approves first generic version of EpiPen Judge rules against Trump attempt to delay Obama water rule MORE (N.D.) and Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinOvernight Health Care: Senate takes up massive HHS spending bill next week | Companies see no sign of drugmakers cutting prices, despite Trump claims | Manchin hits opponent on ObamaCare lawsuit Manchin hits opponent on ObamaCare lawsuit with new ad The Hill's Morning Report: Dems have a majority in the Senate (this week) MORE (W.Va.), who are each facing reelection in states that voted for Trump in 2016.

Democrats had argued that Wheeler wasn’t properly vetted to become EPA head in the scenario of Pruitt’s resignation. The probability of Pruitt leaving the post increased over the past few months, as he faced more several ethics probes into his actions as EPA chief. 

Some lawmakers also highlighted Wheeler's previous work as an energy lobbyist as a disqualification for him to lead the environmental agency. Wheeler previously worked as the co-head of energy practice for the law and lobbying firm Faegre Baker Daniels, and lobbied on behalf of clients including coal-mining giant Murray Energy Corp.

He undid his lobbyist registration last year, shortly before Trump nominated him for the job.

Wheeler has previously worked for the EPA, and was a staffer for Sen. James InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofePence announces first steps in establishing 'Space Force' EPA chief: Obama car rule rollback would save consumers 0B EPA’s Wheeler gets warmer welcome at Senate hearing MORE (R-Okla.), who was chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee at the time of Wheeler's employment.

“This is a selection that continues the Trump administration's essentially complete subservience to the fossil fuel industry in the entire environmental arena,” Sen. Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseOvernight Defense: Officials make show of force on election security | Dems want probe into Air Force One tours | Pentagon believes Korean War remains 'consistent' with Americans Dems call for investigation of Trump Air Force One tours Dem senators introduce resolution calling on Trump to stop attacking the press MORE (D-R.I.) said at the time of Wheeler's nomination.

“There's very little chance that Mr. Wheeler is going to take his public duties seriously as No. 2 at EPA and it's not like at No. 2 at EPA, there's a stopgap that's going to defend us. So this is a really dangerous duo,” he said.

Republicans had defended Wheeler, saying he was qualified for the position and would continue the Trump administration's ending of environmental regulations that the administration considered unnecessary or burdensome for the energy industry.

-Timothy Cama contributed to this report which was updated 7:10 p.m.