Incoming EPA chief ‘humbled and honored’ to take post after Pruitt exit
The incoming head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) told staff he’s “humbled and honored” to be taking charge of the agency after embattled Administrator Scott Pruitt resigned.
Andrew Wheeler, the EPA’s deputy administrator since April, will become acting administrator starting Monday after Pruitt leaves Friday.
In a brief email to the agency’s employees late Thursday after Trump announced Pruitt’s departure, Wheeler thanked Pruitt “for his service and leadership.”
“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 wrote in the email obtained by The Hill.
“I look forward to working hard alongside all of you to continue our collective goal of protecting public health and the environment on behalf of the American people.”
The email appeared to be the first official word the EPA’s 14,000 staffers had heard from their leaders about Pruitt’s resignation, hours after the president tweeted about it.
Wheeler will be able to carry out the duties of the administrator for 210 days. By that point, Trump will need to nominate a successor for Pruitt — Wheeler says he doesn’t want the job — and the Senate will have to vote to confirm the successor.
Speaking to reporters on Air Force One on Thursday, Trump called Wheeler “a very environmental person.”
“He was very much an early Trump supporter. He was with us on the campaign,” Trump said. “He is a very environmental person. He’s a big believer, and he’s going to do a fantastic job.”
Wheeler launched his career in the early 1990s as a civil servant in the EPA’s toxics office. He later worked on Capitol Hill for Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) for 14 years, and then became a lawyer and lobbyist for energy companies for nine years.
His clients at the law firm Faegre Baker Daniels included coal mining company Murray Energy Corp. and uranium company Energy Fuels Resources.