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Coal Lobbyist Could Be Next EPA Deputy Administrator

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President Donald Trump, who signed an executive order in January to curtail lobbying influence in government, is expected to name a coal lobbyist as the new deputy administrator to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Sources told POLITICO that the president is likely tapping Andrew Wheeler, a registered lobbyist for Murray Energy, to be the No. 2 official at the EPA under head Scott Pruitt.

Murray Energy is the largest coal mining company in the nation and has sued the Obama administration multiple times over environmental regulations.

Wheeler has worked in government before. He was an EPA staffer and a Republican staff member at the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, where he "worked on every major piece of environmental and energy-related legislation over the last decade, including greenhouse gas emissions legislation, the Energy Policy Act of 2005, the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, the Clear Skies Act and the Clean Air Interstate Rule," according to his bio at Faegre Baker Daniels Consulting, where Wheeler is a principal and co-leader of the firm's energy and natural resources practice.

If there's anything that indicates that he's pro-fossil fuels, Wheeler's bio lists him as the VP of the "Washington Coal Club."

Incidentally, Wheeler has also worked with many climate change deniers before. He was an advisor to Republican Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma. The snowball-throwing senator thinks environmental regulations kill jobs and just said on Thursday that the EPA is "brainwashing" children.

Murray Energy chairman and CEO Robert Murray, an ardent Trump supporter, said in February that "4,000 scientists tell me global warming is a hoax."

Sources noted to POLITICO that the decision over Wheeler is not yet final and it could be weeks until a nominee is officially announced.

Trump's potential pick would go against his campaign promise to not hire lobbyists as a way to "drain the swamp." Of course, he pledged to revitalize the coal industry so there's that.

"We're gonna put the miners back to work," Trump said on the trail. "We're gonna put the miners back to work. We're gonna get those mines open."

The selection of Wheeler further cements the administration's hostility toward the EPA, which stands to lose about a third of its $8.1 billion budget under the president's 2018 budget proposal.

John Coequyt, the Sierra Club's Climate Policy director, has criticized the possible new hire.

"Donald Trump and Scott Pruitt would have picked a chunk of coal for this position if they could have, but Wheeler is the next most toxic option." Coequyt said.

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