Former energy lobbyist nominated as head of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Andrew Wheeler 'not at all ashamed' of past work lobbying for coal mining company
U.S. President Donald Trump nominated acting Environmental Protection Agency chief Andrew Wheeler Wednesday to run the agency permanently, the White House said, keeping the former energy lobbyist at the helm.
The widely anticipated nomination provides Trump with another avid supporter of his deregulatory and pro-fossil fuels agenda, but without the constant criticism over alleged mismanagement that plagued Wheeler's predecessor, Scott Pruitt.
Wheeler took the reins at the Environmental Protection Agency on an interim basis in July after Pruitt resigned amid a slew of controversies that included his high spending on first-class travel, round-the-clock security, and office equipment.
Wheeler, 54, has overseen a number of deregulatory efforts since Pruitt's departure, including proposals weakening Obama-era rules limiting carbon and mercury emissions from power plants, and an initiative to lift a summertime ban on higher ethanol blends of gasoline that was enacted to curb smog.
In November, Trump announced during a Medal of Freedom ceremony at the White House that he had made up his mind to make Wheeler permanent, saying he had been doing a "fantastic job."
The U.S. Senate, which is led by Trump's fellow Republicans, is expected to approve Wheeler's nomination.
Wheeler worked at the EPA in the 1990s and later in the Senate under Republican Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma, a skeptic of mainstream climate science, before moving to the private sector as a lobbyist and consultant.
He has said he is "not at all ashamed" of his lobbying for Murray Energy Corp, the nation's leading underground coal mining company, the focus of criticism by environmentalists.
Wheeler had also lobbied for utility Xcel Energy Inc and consulted for biofuels industry group Growth Energy, agricultural merchant and biofuels producer Archer Daniels Midland Co., and International Paper Co.
Wheeler has said the agency under his leadership would take the same course as under Pruitt, prioritizing cleaning up industrial Superfund sites — areas contaminated by hazardous waste and identified by the agency as a candidate for cleanup — and financing investments in water infrastructure.