- President Donald Trump has nominated coal lobbyist and former Senate staffer Andrew Wheeler to be deputy administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.
- Wheeler, a principal at law firm Faegre Baker Daniels, was a registered lobbyist for coal giant Murray Energy and is a former staffer to Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), a prominent climate denier. If confirmed, he would be the second-most powerful figure at EPA, behind Administrator Scott Pruitt.
- Conservative groups and fossil fuel interests cheered Wheeler's nomination while Democrats and environmentalists decried the pick as another example of Trump filling a key environmental post with a figure sympathetic to industry.
After months without a number of its top staff positions filled, the EPA may soon have a new number two.
On Thursday, the White House announced it would nominate Andrew Wheeler to serve as deputy administrator, filling an important agency position last filled by Janet McCabe, who led the agency's efforts on the Clean Power Plan.
Wheeler represents a sharp break with his predecessor, serving as a Murray Energy lobbyist as recently as August. President Trump earlier this year issued an executive order barring lobbyists from serving in the administration for a least a year after they give up their registration, but the Washington Examiner notes it could obtain a waiver to allow Wheeler to serve.
Conservative energy interests praised Wheeler's legislative experience and industry-friendly attitude.
“Andrew is highly qualified, can work with Congress and understands what needs to be done to articulate President Trump and Administrator Pruitt’s vision of resetting our energy and environmental policies," Institute for Energy Research President Thomas Pyle told the New York Times.
Echoing other environmental groups, the Sierra Club called the nomination "absolutely horrifying."
“Andrew Wheeler is a big time lobbyist who has represented Big Coal for almost a decade, including in numerous lawsuits challenging the EPA," the organization said in a statement. "He is a friend to polluters, not to American families that rely on clean air and clean water."
Wheeler would take his office after confirmation from the Senate, but it's unclear when that could take place. Five other EPA officials have received nomination hearings, the Hill notes, but the full Senate has not yet voted on them.