A leading lobbyist for the coal and oil industries, who is a staunch climate change skeptic, is a step away from being second in command at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Andrew R. Wheeler's nomination by President Trump to be Deputy EPA Administrator was approved by a party-line vote in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Wednesday. The nomination will now go to the full Senate.
His former clients include Robert Murray, CEO of the nation's largest coal mining company, whose wish list has set much of the agenda for the Trump administration's environmental rollbacks. And Wheeler raised money last year for two senators who approved his nomination, according to The Intercept.
"Bob Murray and every other coal industry executive must be as giddy as kids the night before Christmas," said EWG President Ken Cook. "The idea that one of their own lobbyists would one day be a top EPA official in charge of 'regulating' the coal industry was sheer fantasy until now."
"No one should think for a second Wheeler will shed his years of work for and allegiance to polluters, and instead take seriously his duty to safeguard public health and environmental protections," said Cook.
Wheeler counts Murray Energy as one of his lobbying clients at the Washington law firm Faegre Baker Daniels. In May he hosted campaign fundraisers for the Environment and Public Works Committee chairman, Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo. and committee member Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., according to The Intercept. Before joining the law firm, Wheeler was an aide to Inhofe for 14 years.
For more on Wheeler's career as a lobbyist for the fossil fuel industry and the threats he poses to public health and environmental protection, see these reports by HuffPost's Alexander Kaufman and The New Republic's Emily Atkin.