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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 PruittEPA puts science ‘transparency’ rule on back burner Tucker Carlson says he 'can't really' dine out anymore because people keep yelling at him Overnight Energy: Trump administration doubles down on climate skepticism | Suspended EPA health official hits back | Military bases could host coal, gas exports MORE.

After a series of mounting ethics scandals, President TrumpDonald John TrumpThe Guardian slams Trump over comments about assault on reporter Five takeaways from the first North Dakota Senate debate Watchdog org: Tillerson used million in taxpayer funds to fly throughout US 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. 

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“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 DonnellyDonnelly parodies 'Veep' in new campaign ad Election Countdown: Florida Senate fight resumes after hurricane | Cruz softens ObamaCare attacks | GOP worries Trump will lose suburban women | Latest Senate polls | Rep. Dave Brat gets Trump's 'total endorsement' | Dem candidates raise record B Poll: Dems lead in Indiana, West Virginia Senate races, tied in Nevada MORE (Ind.), Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampFive takeaways from the first North Dakota Senate debate Live coverage: Heitkamp faces Cramer in high-stakes North Dakota debate Sexual assault survivor named in Heitkamp ad: 'She definitely lost my vote' MORE (N.D.) and Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinElection Countdown: Florida Senate fight resumes after hurricane | Cruz softens ObamaCare attacks | GOP worries Trump will lose suburban women | Latest Senate polls | Rep. Dave Brat gets Trump's 'total endorsement' | Dem candidates raise record B Poll: Dems lead in Indiana, West Virginia Senate races, tied in Nevada McConnell defends Trump-backed lawsuit against ObamaCare 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 InhofeGraham: 'Game changer' if Saudis behind journalist's disappearance GOP senators ask EPA to block states that have 'hijacked' rule to stop fossil fuel production Pentagon releases report on sexual assault risk 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 WhitehouseSenate Dems ask Trump to disclose financial ties to Saudi Arabia Democrats won’t let Kavanaugh debate die Senate poised to confirm Kavanaugh after bitter fight 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.