Quantcast

Pruitt’s Replacement Andrew Wheeler Will Be ‘Much Smarter’ Threat, Environmentalists Fear

Politics
Former EPA head Scott Pruitt (on right) with Andrew Wheeler when Wheeler was sworn in as deputy administrator in April. EPA

When President Donald Trump announced the resignation of scandal-plagued EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt via tweet on Thursday, he also introduced his successor, current Deputy Administrator Andrew Wheeler, who was approved by the Senate in April.

"I have no doubt that Andy will continue on with our great and lasting EPA agenda. We have made tremendous progress and the future of the EPA is very bright!" Trump tweeted.


Unfortunately, Wheeler's staunch dedication to Trump's deregulatory environmental agenda is expected by both the president and green groups.

Wheeler is a former government staffer and coal lobbyist with decades of DC experience, which critics and allies agree could aid him in implementing Trump's agenda without the distractions posed by Pruitt's soundproof phone booth or unorthodox rental arrangements, POLITICO reported.

"Wheeler is much smarter and will try to keep his efforts under the radar in implementing Trump's destructive agenda," Vice President for Political Affairs at the Environmental Defense Fund Jeremy Symons told POLITICO. "That should scare anyone who breathes."

Wheeler began his DC career at the EPA as a special assistant in the pollution prevention and toxics office, according to his EPA bio. He has now been in DC for more than 20 years, and followed up his EPA post by working for infamous climate change denier and Republican Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe, The New York Times reported. Inhofe once even threw a snowball on the Senate floor to assert that global warming wasn't happening, according to Vox.

Wheeler is one of several former Inhofe staffers, known as the "Inhofe mafia," who have risen to prominent environment or energy positions in the Trump administration or work with influential lobbying firms, according to The New York Times.

After leaving government work, Wheeler worked at a law firm that lobbied for the coal industry, NBC reported. His firm's biggest client was Murray Energy Corp., whose CEO, Robert E. Murray, donated $300,000 to Trump's inauguration fund and provided Trump with a wishlist of environmental policies he wanted changed to benefit coal plants, The New York Times reported.

As a lobbyist, Wheeler also pressed the government to open parts of Bears Ears National Monument to uranium mining, NBC reported.

Environmental groups are concerned about the legacy Wheeler brings with him as he prepares to lead the EPA.

"He fought against safeguards to limit mercury poisoning. He fought against protections to limit the amount of ozone in our skies. He fought against air pollution from neighboring states. He's a climate denier. So, sadly, he fits in well with EPA leadership," Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune told POLITICO.

Critics are also concerned that Wheeler's decades of experience, and reputation as a rule follower, will mean his deregulatory efforts will stand up to legal scrutiny more effectively than Pruitt's rushed attempts at rollbacks.

"The problem with the Pruitt approach is it's like a sugar high," Democratic lobbyist and former Energy Department staff member Jeff Navin told POLITICO. "It feels really, really good for a moment, but if you're not following rules and procedure, not laying down substance for the decision you're making, you're not going to last very long."

But that is not Wheeler's style. "He will be similar to Pruitt in terms of the agenda—he understands the Trump administration and will carry out the agenda," Matthew Dempsey, who worked for Inhofe alongside Pruitt, told The New York Times. "But he's been around Washington a long time. He knows how DC works and he does things by the book."

However, it is not known how long Wheeler will head the EPA before Trump nominates a permanent replacement for Pruitt. Trump might suggest Wheeler for the role, but The New York Times reported that Wheeler himself has said he does not want the job. He also wrote a Facebook post critical of Trump during the 2016 election, which might dissuade the president from selecting him.

Other possible permanent replacements for Pruitt include Donald Van der Vaart, a senior environmental official from North Carolina who Pruitt appointed to an EPA scientific advisory board, The New York Times reported.

Show Comments ()

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Pexels

By Makayla Meixner

Black pepper is one of the most commonly used spices worldwide.

Read More Show Less
Many common snack foods have been expertly engineered to keep us addicted. Karen M. Romanko / Photolibrary / Getty Images

By Melissa Kravitz

Can't stop eating that bag of chips until you're licking the salt nestled in the corners of the empty package from your fingers? You're not alone. And it's not entirely your fault that the intended final handful of chips was not, indeed, your last for that snacking session. Many common snack foods have been expertly engineered to keep us addicted, almost constantly craving more of whatever falsely satisfying manufactured treat is in front of us.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Hannes Kutza / EyeEm / Getty Images

By Kim Knowlton

A new paper just out in The Lancet Planetary Health provides the first global indication that recent temperature increases, propelled by climate change, are in fact contributing significantly to longer and more intense pollen seasons.

Read More Show Less
Jordan Siemens / Taxi / Getty Images

EcoWatch is pleased to announce its second photo contest! Earth Day is happening on April 22nd, and this year's theme is "Protect Our Species." With that in mind, we want EcoWatchers to show us your photographs of creatures that inhabit Earth. Send us your best photos of species you value.

Read More Show Less
A new study based on data from the Energy Information Agency found that coal plants are now far more expensive to run than wind and solar power projects. reynermedia / CC BY 2.0

By Julia Conley

In propping up the coal industry, the Trump administration is not only contributing to dangerous pollution, fossil fuel emissions and the climate crisis, it is also now clinging to a far more expensive energy production model than renewable energy offers.

That's according to a new report from renewable energy analysis firm Energy Innovation, showing that about three-quarters of power produced by the nation's remaining coal plants is more expensive for American households than renewables including wind, solar and hydro power.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Cars piled up in the Iranian city of Shiraz after flash flooding swept through the city. AMIN BERENJKAR / AFP / Getty Images

At least 19 people have died and more than 100 have been injured in flash flooding in the south of Iran, the country's semi-official Tasnim News Agency said. The city of Shiraz in Fars province was the worst hit by the flooding, which occurred after a month's worth of rain fell in a few hours, CNN meteorologist Taylor Ward said.

Read More Show Less
Two Sherpa descending from Everest Base Camp, Himalayas, Khumbu, Nepal. Joel Addams / Aurora Photos / Getty Images

Climate change is having a grizzly effect on Mount Everest as melting snow and glaciers reveal some of the bodies of climbers who died trying to scale the world's highest peak.

Read More Show Less
Navajo Generating Station, Arizona. Wolfgang Moroder / Wikimedia / CC BY-SA 3.0

The Navajo Nation has decided to stop pursuing the acquisition of a beleaguered coal-fired power plant in Arizona, locking in the plant to be taken offline and its associated coal mine to close later this year.

A Navajo Nation Council committee voted 11-9 last week to stop pursuing the purchase of the 2,250-megawatt Navajo Generating Station, which with the Kayenta coal mine provides more than 800 jobs to primarily Navajo and Hopi workers as well as tribal royalties.

A coalition of utilities that own the plant said in 2017 it would cease operations due to increased economic pressure, and the plant's future has proved a flash point for national and regional energy policy and raised larger questions on how Native communities will handle ties to fossil fuel industries as the economy changes.

For a deeper dive:

Arizona Republic, Indian Country Today, AP, WOKV, Farmington Daily Times

For more climate change and clean energy news, you can follow Climate Nexus on Twitter and Facebook, and sign up for daily Hot News.