Donald Trump is expected to nominate top coal industry lobbyist Andrew Wheeler to the second-highest post in the Environmental Protection Agency.
The proposed appointment marks yet another controversial appointment for the administration.
The agency’s current head, Scott Pruitt, faced enormous resistance from left-leaning politicians and activists prior to assuming office. Pruitt, the former Attorney General for the State of Oklahoma, sued the EPA a dozen times during his tenure. He also opposed a cleanup of the Chesapeake Bay, among the most polluted bodies of water in the United States.
Wheeler’s own history is similarly pockmarked, albeit in line with Trump’s generally pro-business agenda.
Currently a principle at the Faegre Baker Daniels Consulting firm, Wheeler is a lobbyist for the Murray Energy Corporation, which boasts on its website of being ‘the largest coal mining company in America.’
The company’s chief executive officer, Robert Murray, is ‘close’ to President Trump, according to Axios.com.
Murray recently filed a defamation suit against John Oliver, who criticized the corporation’s business practices on television.
Axios and Salon both report that Wheeler has also served as a ‘top aide’ to Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe (R), a long-time climate change denialist.
As a lobbyist and aide to Inhofe, Wheeler gained a reputation for being outspoken on issues pertaining to global warming. He’s warned against setting limits on greenhouse gas emissions and has criticized organizations like the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Back in 2010, the coal lobbyist wrote online that the IPCC “has functioned more as a political body than a scientific body.”
Not long after, he recommended politicians follow in step with Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) to overturn endangerment findings on climate change and “allow legislators to craft sensible energy policy that can promote energy independence without killing our domestic production of fossil fuels.”
Multiple media sources indicate that Wheeler’s nomination is preceding an even larger shake-up of the EPA’s current order.
Agency administrator Scott Pruitt is purportedly planning to pick three conservatives to “lead key divisions within the [EPA],” wrote the Washington Post.
“Trump will nominate Bill Wehrum as associate administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation, Matt Leopold to serve as EPA general counsel and David Ross as assistant administrator for Office of Water,” reported the Post.
Since Pruitt’s confirmation, the Trump Administration has promised to bring sweeping changes to the Environmental Protection Agency.
Salon notes that five scientists were fired from the agency’s Board of Science Counselors and subsequently replaced by fossil fuel lobbyist.
The EPA has also been threatened with budget cuts and could lose up to a tenth of its workforce by September.