Andrew Wheeler will be nominated to head the Environmental Protection Agency, President Donald Trump said before a White House ceremony where he awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to seven Americans.

Wheeler has been acting administrator since former administrator Scott Pruitt left the post in July after questions were repeatedly raised about his spending decisions and ethical conduct.

Trump said he would be making Wheeler "permanent" in his position heading the EPA. Though not technically members of the cabinet, EPA administrators are nonetheless treated as if they are.

"He’s done a fantastic job, and I want to congratulate him," Trump said after introducing some cabinet members who were attending the ceremony. 

Wheeler has presided over EPA while it has struggled to implement calls by ethanol proponents to allow year-round sales of E15 – gasoline blended with 15 percent ethanol. Trump decided last month to allow an E15 proposal to move forward, but it has yet to be published in the Federal Register. 

Wheeler's nomination is likely to be met with stiff opposition from environmental groups and many Democrats in the Senate, which will have to vote on it. Pro-biofuel Republicans could also prove to be an obstacle for Wheeler's confirmation.

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Farm groups have been pleased with Wheeler's performance, in particular a recent proposal to exempt farms and feeding operations from having to report animal waste emissions to state and local authorities.

Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., the top Democrat on the Environment and Public Works Committee, said Wheeler has been better than Pruitt, but not as good as previous administrators who served under Republican presidents. "If the President intends to nominate Andrew Wheeler to be the Administrator of EPA, then Mr. Wheeler must come before our committee so that members can look at his record as acting administrator objectively to see if any improvements have been made at the agency since he took the helm,” Carper said Friday in a statement.

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