On January 9, 2019, President Donald Trump formally nominated Andrew Wheeler to serve as Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Wheeler, who is a former energy lobbyist, has led the EPA for the past six months in an acting capacity following the departure of former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt.
“I am honored and grateful that President Trump has nominated me to lead the Environmental Protection Agency,” said Wheeler 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 people.
The White House has sent Wheeler’s nomination to the U.S. Senate. EPA is one of the agency’s that is affected by the partial government shutdown. (See LLW Notes, November/December 2018, pp. 29-30.)
Wheeler is a former lobbyist for coal mining giant Murray Energy Corporation and other companies. He has been serving as the acting EPA Administrator since July 2018, following the resignation of then-EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. If the Senate confirms Wheeler, his responsibilities and duties would remain the same. Without confirmation, however, his ability to serve in an acting capacity may be limited to a maximum of 210 days under current law.
Wheeler, who was confirmed by the U.S. Senate as Deputy Administrator in April 2018, has overseen significant action on some of the most consequential deregulatory proposals by the EPA. During his tenure as Acting Administrator, the EPA has proposed to replace limits on carbon dioxide pollution from power plants; to cease plans to strengthen auto emissions and efficiency rules; and, to limit restrictions on wetlands and streams.
“Acing Administrator Wheeler has done an outstanding job leading EPA and is well qualified to run the agency on a permanent basis,” said Senator John Barrasso (R-WY). “I will work with committee members to get him confirmed.” Senator Barraso serves as Chair of the Environment and Public Works Committee, which is responsible for reviewing the nomination.
“The only thing Wheeler is going to protect at the EPA is the profits of polluters,” said Brett Hartl in a prepared statement. “I’m sure corporate board rooms will celebrate this nomination,” continued Hartl, who serves as Government Affairs Director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “But for anyone who drinks water, breathes air or cares about wildlife, this will be nothing but awful.”
Wheeler began his career at the EPA in the early 1990’s, working on toxic substance policy. He later worked on Capitol Hill as a top aide to Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), a former Chair of the Environment and Public Works Committee and a vocal skeptic of climate change science.
Wheeler also worked at the law and lobbying firm of Faegre Baker Daniels. During his time at the law firm, Wheeler served as a lobbyist for energy and coal companies.