The Slatest

Trump Taps Ex–Coal Lobbyist Andew Wheeler as Permanent EPA Replacement for Corruption-Tainted Pruitt

Andrew Wheeler testifying in the Senate.
Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler testifies before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee August 1, 2018 in Washington, DC.
Win McNamee/Getty Images

President Trump struck gold in his search for a permanent EPA head who can roll back as many of Obama’s—and other presidents’—environmental regulations as possible without increasingly bizarre scandals. And he didn’t have to look farther than the man currently doing the job as acting administrator: Andrew Wheeler.

Wheeler had been Scott Pruitt’s deputy before taking over as administrator in July when Pruitt rode off to spend more time with his preferred lotion. Wheeler had previously worked as a lobbyist for a range of industries, including the coal industry.

The Washington Post reported Friday that Trump will nominate Wheeler as permanent head of the agency. This means Wheeler will face a Senate confirmation, likely involving lots of questions from Democrats about Trump’s environmental policy and Wheeler’s industry connections, especially his work for coal magnate Robert Murray, who aggressively lobbied the incoming Trump administration to scrap or relax rules on greenhouse gas emissions and mine safety.

It would also likely be a relatively easy confirmation because of the expanded Republican majority. Pruitt was confirmed 52–46 with two senators not voting (John McCain and Joe Donnelly). If Wheeler’s confirmation vote takes place in the lame duck session, Wheeler would probably be able to count on the support of McCain’s replacement, Jon Kyl.