Trump formally nominates Wheeler to head EPA

President TrumpDonald John TrumpMarine unit in Florida reportedly pushing to hold annual ball at Trump property Giuliani clashes with CNN's Cuomo, calls him a 'sellout' and the 'enemy' Giuliani says 'of course' he asked Ukraine to look into Biden seconds after denying it MORE has formally nominated Andrew Wheeler, a former energy lobbyist who has led the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in an acting capacity for six months, to serve as EPA administrator.
 
The White House said Wednesday that Trump had sent Wheeler’s nomination to the Senate, making good on a promise he made in November.
 
“I am honored and grateful that President Trump has nominated me to lead the Environmental Protection Agency,” Wheeler said in a statement.

“For me, there is no greater responsibility than protecting human health and the environment, and I look forward to carrying out this essential task on behalf of the American public.”

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The nomination came despite the ongoing partial government shutdown, which has brought the EPA down to a skeleton staff.

Wheeler, a former lobbyist for coal mining giant Murray Energy Corp. and other companies, has been the EPA’s acting head since July, when Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittEPA moving ahead with science transparency rule by 'early next year' Overnight Energy: Trump administration to repeal waterway protections| House votes to block drilling in Arctic refuge| Administration takes key step to open Alaskan refuge to drilling by end of year Trump administration to repeal waterway protections MORE resigned due to growing ethics and spending scandals. The Senate confirmed him as deputy administrator in April.

Trump said in November that Wheeler had “done a fantastic job and I want to congratulate him.”

If the Senate confirms Wheeler to head the EPA, his responsibilities and abilities wouldn’t change. But without the confirmation, he may have been limited to 210 days as acting chief.

The Senate currently has 53 Republicans, 45 Democrats and two independents who caucus with Democrats, so his confirmation is a near certainty.

Wheeler has overseen major action on some of the most consequential deregulatory proposals of the EPA under Trump. During his tenure as acting chief, the EPA has proposed to replace limits on carbon dioxide pollution from power plants with far looser rules, to stop plans to strengthen auto emissions and efficiency rules and to restrict the streams and wetlands that the EPA protects from harm.

Those actions have garnered repeated praise from affected industries, but sharp criticism from environmentalists.

The agenda is largely a continuation of Pruitt’s plans, but Wheeler has not gotten into nearly the same high-profile ethics troubles as his predecessor.

Sen. John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoTo stave off a recession, let's pass a transportation infrastructure bill Overnight Defense: GOP wary of action on Iran | Pence says US 'locked and loaded' to defend allies | Iran's leader rules out talks with US GOP senator: Iran is behind attack on Saudi Arabia MORE (R-Wyo.), chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, which is responsible for reviewing Wheeler’s nomination and taking the initial vote, cheered the nomination Wednesday.

“Acting Administrator Wheeler has done an outstanding job leading EPA and is well qualified to run the agency on a permanent basis. I will work with committee members to get him confirmed,” he said in a statement.

Environmentalists, meanwhile, bemoaned Wheeler’s nomination.

“The only thing Wheeler is going to protect at the EPA is the profits of polluters,” Brett Hartl, government affairs director at the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement. “I’m sure corporate board rooms will celebrate this nomination. But for anyone who drinks water, breathes air or cares about wildlife, this will be nothing but awful.”

Wheeler started his career in the early 1990s as a career employee at the EPA, working on toxic substance policy. He later worked on Capitol Hill as a top aide to Sen. James InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeNegotiators kick off defense bill talks amid border wall, Iran debates House rejects GOP motion on replacing Pentagon funding used on border wall Republicans wary of US action on Iran MORE (R-Okla.), a former chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee and a vocal skeptic of climate change science.

Prior to becoming the EPA’s No. 2 official, Wheeler worked at the law and lobbying firm Faegre Baker Daniels, where his clients included Murray, led by outspoken coal booster and GOP donor Bob Murray.