EPA chief recuses himself from mine review his ex-law firm repped: report

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler is reportedly recusing himself from agency reviews of a proposed mine whose developer his former law firm represented.

In 2017, Wheeler’s then-firm Faegre Baker Daniels arranged a meeting between then-EPA Administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittOvernight Energy: Trump administration to repeal waterway protections| House votes to block drilling in Arctic refuge| Administration takes key step to open Alaskan refuge to drilling by end of year Trump administration to repeal waterway protections The Hill's Morning Report - Gillibrand drops out as number of debaters shrinks MORE and Pebble LP, the developer of the proposed gold and copper mine near Alaska’s Bristol Bay, according to Bloomberg.

ADVERTISEMENT

Soon after the meeting, Pruitt proposed withdrawing mining regulations that would have hindered the project in securing necessary Clean Water Act permits.

Wheeler never provided services to a client on the mine, but said the recusal would be effective for the length of his tenure as EPA chief, reportedly delegating all issues involving the Pebble Mine to EPA general counsel Matthew Leopold. 

Wheeler will remain recused from matters involving several ex-clients, including coal company Murray Energy, uranium developer Energy Fuels Resources and biofuel advocates Growth Energy, according to Bloomberg. He also recused himself from issues involving Superfund sites where his former clients may be responsible.

Last July, an EPA ethics official defended Wheeler's meetings with former lobbying clients, including Darling Ingredients, Archer Daniels Midland Co. and the South Coast Air Quality Management District, noting that Wheeler did not work for them within two years before his arrival at the EPA.

“A former client is defined as anybody for whom the appointee provided services — legal service, consulting services, whatever — within the prior two years,” Fugh told The Hill in 2018.

EPA officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Hill.