Senate Confirms Top Coal, Chemical Lobbyist for No. 2 EPA Post

Updated to reflect Senate confirmation of Andrew Wheeler.

WASHINGTON –  The Senate voted 53 to 45 this afternoon to confirm Andrew Wheeler, a top lobbyist for the coal and chemical industries, to be the Deputy Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. 

“Before the Trump administration, it would have been inconceivable that a coal and chemical industry lobbyist with a long history of hostility toward environmental policy would be the number two at the EPA,” said EWG President Ken Cook. “The EPA may need to add more office space to accommodate Mr. Wheeler. I’m not sure there’s enough room in its current digs to fit another shill from the coal and chemical industries.”

“If President Trump picked a top tobacco lobbyist to run the CDC, most Americans would demand the Senate reject that nomination,” said Cook. “Putting Mr. Wheeler in charge at the EPA is no different. He’s spent his entire career opposing virtually every aspect of the EPA’s mission to protect public health and the environment, and now will continue his life’s work from the inside.”  

In January, Trump’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Brenda Fitzgerald resigned after it was reported she purchased shares in a tobacco company one month into her tenure leading the agency.

With mounting scandals swirling around EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and more than 100 members of Congress from both chambers now calling on him to resign or be fired, with Wheeler now confirmed as Deputy Administrator, he could soon be effectively running the agency.

“If the grifter from Oklahoma is sent packing, Wheeler would no doubt step in to continue the assault on public health and environmental protection,” Cook added.

Wheeler’s former clients include Robert Murray, the CEO of the nation’s largest coal mining company, Murray Energy. The company’s 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 own nomination, according to The Intercept.

Wheeler also represented Celanese Corporation, a chemical company that manufactures a number of toxic substances, including formaldehyde. According to Wheeler’s bio at his consulting job, he’s also currently the vice president of the Washington Coal Club, an association for coal industry lobbyists.


Photo courtesy of U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works

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