Energy & Environment

Youngkin appoints former Trump EPA head to new deregulation office

Former EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler testifies before the Virginia Senate Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources Committee.
AP Photo/Steve Helber
Former EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler testifies before the Virginia Senate Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources Committee.

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) on Friday appointed former Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) head Andrew Wheeler to a newly created Office of Regulatory Management, months after state lawmakers voted Wheeler down for another position. 

Wheeler will head the new office, which Youngkin said in a statement will aim to reduce state regulatory requirements by 25 percent. The Trump administration implemented a similar policy in 2017, imposing a requirement that any new regulations be accompanied by the repeal of two existing regulations. 

“Last year, I pledged to Virginians that we would remove 25% of the regulatory requirements in the Commonwealth,” Youngkin said in a statement Friday. “In the spirit of this objective, we have created the Office of Regulatory Management, led by Andrew Wheeler, which will create much needed transparency and efficiency in Virginia’s regulatory process to ensure that we have a government that works for the citizens of the Commonwealth.” 

Wheeler, who served as EPA administrator from 2019 to 2021, was initially Youngkin’s nominee as Virginia’s secretary of natural resources.

Wheeler’s nomination immediately faced pushback in the Democratic-majority state Senate, due to his history with the Trump administration and as a coal industry lobbyist. While Wheeler did not echo then-President Trump’s false claims that climate change is a hoax, he has repeatedly minimized the threat it poses.

Initially, there was speculation that Wheeler might secure confirmation after a largely collegial hearing in which he defended his environmental record and blamed the media for the perception of his tenure. However, the Senate tabled his nomination in a 21-19 vote in March, making him the first Virginia Cabinet nominee who did not clear confirmation since 2006.

Wheeler served as acting secretary for the remainder of the General Assembly session, per the state constitution, and has served as an adviser to Youngkin since March. 

A spokesman for Youngkin’s office told The Hill that Wheeler will not require General Assembly confirmation as head of the new office. 

The announcement comes the same week that Wheeler’s predecessor as EPA chief, Scott Pruitt, lost in Oklahoma’s GOP Senate primary to replace retiring Sen. James Inhofe (R).  

Tags Andrew Wheeler Deregulation Environmental Protection Agency EPA Glenn Youngkin Virginia

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