Scott Pruitt resigned as administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency yesterday following months of alleged ethics violations, the latest of which claimed he deleted records of controversial meetings with industry leaders from his public calendar. Deputy administrator Andrew Wheeler, a former coal lobbyist, will take over as acting director of the agency.
“I have no doubt that Andy will continue on with our great and lasting EPA agenda,” President Trump tweeted. “We have made tremendous progress and the future of the EPA is very bright!”
Wheeler is a long-time Washington, D.C. insider. He is a former chief of staff for Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma, one of Congress’s most vocal climate deniers, and previously worked at the EPA for four years in the early 1990s. Before joining the EPA under the Trump administration, Wheeler worked as a lobbyist for several energy and mining companies, including Murray Energy, which paid his consulting firm at least $300,000 annually from 2009 to 2017, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Political experts say Wheeler could be equally or more effective than Pruitt in carrying out the Trump administration’s anti-regulatory, pro-industry environmental agenda.
“Like Pruitt, this veteran coal lobby lobbyist has shown only disdain for the E.P.A.’s vital mission to protect Americans’ health and our environment,” Ana Unruh Cohen, managing director for government affairs at the Natural Resources Defense Council, told The New York Times.