Quantcast

This Coal Lobbyist Could Head the EPA, and He May Be Worse Than Pruitt

Politics
Andrew Wheeler appeared before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on Nov. 8. Senate EPW

By Keith Gaby

Given the tenuous hold Scott Pruitt has on his job leading the U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), attention has now turned to the pending nomination of coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler to become the embattled agency's deputy administrator.

In the event Pruitt were forced from office by the avalanche of scandals swirling around him, Wheeler—if confirmed as the agency's number two—would suddenly be running the EPA.


His tenure as acting administrator could be lengthy, too, given the closely divided Senate and the controversial policies of the Trump administration in this area.

And things are moving fast: Wheeler's nomination is scheduled to come before the Senate this week. It is critically important that Americans get educated on his career to date.

Wheeler spent years as an energy industry lobbyist.

Here's the bottom line: Andrew Wheeler running the EPA would go far beyond having an administrator overly influenced by lobbyists. If he's confirmed, the head of the EPA would, in fact, be an energy industry lobbyist.

On Wheeler's client list was Murray Energy, one of the worst corporate citizens in America.

Working for a big lobbying firm, Faegre Baker Daniels, Wheeler lobbied on behalf of energy companies for nearly a decade, including Murray. He earned more than $3 million in income for his firm from the large coal mining company.

His coal mining client paid millions in fines.

Since Wheeler began lobbying for Murray Energy, the company has paid millions in fines and penalties for contaminating waterways in Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania with coal slurry and discharge.

In 2010, Murray Energy contaminated the Captina Creek in Ohio for the fourth time since 2000, with coal slurry. According to the Columbus Dispatch, coal slurry from Murray Energy spilled into the creek in 2000, 2005 and 2008.

In 2015, federal regulators accused Murray Energy of attempting to silence whistleblowers and said that "Murray Energy chided 3,500 workers for making too many confidential safety complaints to regulators and—at one of the mines—threatened to retaliate by closing down operations."

As Wheeler's client, Murray Energy created an "action plan" for the EPA that called for overturning rules limiting mercury pollution, carbon pollution and air pollution that crosses state lines. It also called for cutting the EPA "at least in half."

Insider knowledge could make him dangerous.

Wheeler's lobbying list of clients regulated by the EPA is extensive. It also includes corporate names such as Bear Head LNG Corporation, Celanese Corporation, Domestic Fuel Solutions Group, ICOR International and the Nuclear Energy Institute.

He's devoted his career to defending the interests of the nation's largest polluters, as a lobbyist and in jobs on Capitol Hill. As deputy administrator, Wheeler would likely use his bureaucratic knowledge to continue to work for the goals of his past clients—with tragic results for our air, water, kids and heath.

That could make him even more dangerous than Scott Pruitt.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Participants of the climate demonstration Fridays for Future walk through Hamburg, Germany on Feb. 21, 2020. Axel Heimken / picture alliance via Getty Images

By Andrea Germanos

U.S.-based youth climate activists on Friday drew attention to the climate protest in Hamburg, Germany, where organizers said roughly 60,000 people took part, and hoped that Americans took inspiration from their European counterparts.

Read More
Blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus) surfacing, showing the remains of a blow and its mottled appearance near South Georgia Island in the Polar Regions. Mick Baines & Maren / Getty Images

The largest animal on Earth is proving that wildlife protections work.

Read More
Sponsored
A pipeline that ruptured in Mississippi Saturday, forcing hundreds to evacuate. Yazoo County Emergency Management Agency

More than 300 people were forced to evacuate and 46 were sent to the hospital after a gas pipeline ruptured in Mississippi Saturday.

Read More
Pexels

By Tim Lydon

Climate-related disasters are on the rise, and carbon emissions are soaring. Parents today face the unprecedented challenge of raising children somehow prepared for a planetary emergency that may last their lifetimes. Few guidebooks are on the shelves for this one, yet, but experts do have advice. And in a bit of happy news, it includes strategies already widely recognized as good for kids.

Read More
Pexels

Be it Nina Simone and James Brown for civil rights, Joni Mitchell and Marvin Gaye for the environment, or Jackson Browne and Buffalo Springfield for nuclear disarmament, musicians have long helped push social movements into the limelight.

Read More