Dems seek probe into EPA head’s meetings with former clients

Dems seek probe into EPA head’s meetings with former clients
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A group of House Democrats is calling for the government’s ethics office to investigate acting Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) head Andrew Wheeler's meetings with former lobbying clients.

Democratic Reps. Don Beyer (Va.), Raja KrishnamoorthiSubramanian (Raja) Raja KrishnamoorthiDems seize on Times bombshell to push allegations of Trump obstruction It’s time to shut down all future government shutdowns Democrats are zeroing in on Treasury’s Mnuchin MORE (Ill.), Pramila JayapalPramila JayapalOvernight Health Care — Sponsored by America's 340B Hospitals — Push for cosponsors for new 'Medicare for all' bill | Court lets Dems defend ObamaCare | Flu season not as severe as last year, CDC says Democrats seek cosponsors for new 'Medicare for all' bill Overnight Health Care — Sponsored by America's 340B Hospitals — Utah tests Trump on Medicaid expansion | Dems roll out Medicare buy-in proposal | Medicare for all could get hearing next month | Doctors group faces political risks on guns MORE (Wash.) and Jamie RaskinJamin (Jamie) Ben RaskinGaming executive calls Justice Department's opinion on Wire Act 'perplexing' Trump's acting attorney general tells Democrat his time is up in testy hearing Dems accused of MeToo hypocrisy in Virginia MORE (Md.) want the Office of Government Ethics to investigate whether the meetings, first reported Thursday by E&E News, violated ethics standards.

“Andrew Wheeler is the Acting Administrator of the EPA because of the departure of Administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittCalifornia has sued the Trump administration 46 times. Here are the lawsuits Overnight Energy: Justices take up major case on water rules | Dems probe administration's dealings with Saudi Arabia | Greens sue EPA over toxic paint strippers Environmental groups sue EPA in bid to ban toxic paint strippers MORE, which occurred under a cloud of ethical controversy and scandal that tarnished the reputation of the Agency,” the Democrats wrote in a Friday letter to the ethics office.

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“That context, Wheeler's past work as a coal lobbyist, and the many conflicts of interest which that work naturally presents to his leadership of the EPA demand that his meetings and communications be carefully scrutinized so that he is held to the highest ethical standard.”

Wheeler’s public calendars show that he met with representatives of Darling Ingredients, Archer Daniels Midland Co. and the South Coast Air Quality Management District, and spoke at an event that included the head of International Paper Co., in the time between when he became EPA’s deputy administrator in April and when he took over as acting administrator this month.

Wheeler lobbied for the companies in his previous role at Faegre Baker Daniels.

Justina Fugh, the EPA’s No. 2 ethics official, to The Hill earlier Friday that none of the encounters violated President TrumpDonald John TrumpJustice Department preparing for Mueller report as soon as next week: reports Smollett lawyers declare 'Empire' star innocent Pelosi asks members to support resolution against emergency declaration MORE’s ethics pledge or other ethical standards.

Fugh said Darling, Archer Daniels Midland and the South Coast Air Quality Management District didn’t count as “former clients” for ethics purposes because Wheeler’s work for them stopped more than two years before he came to the EPA. International Paper counts as a client, but since other entities were represented at the event where he spoke, he didn’t violate the pledge, Fugh said.

But the Democrats’ letter Friday points to a congressional disclosure form saying that Wheeler lobbied for Darling during the period that ended May 2016. His representation may have crossed into the two-year window before his April start at the EPA, they said, which would prohibit him from meeting with the company until April 2019.

In addition to the standard ethics agreements, Wheeler told Bloomberg News in June that he’d avoid meeting with clients he’d lobbied for previously.

“If I lobbied on something, I don’t think it’s appropriate for me to participate,” he said.