Energy & Environment

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

Youtube screenshot

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 Pruitt.

After a series of mounting ethics scandals, President Trump 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. 

{mosads}

“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 Donnelly (Ind.), Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.) and Joe Manchin (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 Inhofe (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 Whitehouse (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.

Tags Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency Donald Trump Heidi Heitkamp James Inhofe Joe Donnelly Joe Manchin Scott Pruitt Sheldon Whitehouse

Most Popular

Load more

Video

See all Video