President Donald Trump has nominated Andrew Wheeler to be the administrator of the EPA, offering him a chance to lose the acting title and lead the agency officially.
Wheeler has been leading the agency on an acting basis since July following the resignation of former administrator Scott Pruitt. Trump announced his plans to nominate Wheeler to the administrator position in November, saying he had done a “fantastic job” as acting administrator.
The move comes as little surprise to those following the agency, both due to Trump’s November comments as well as Wheeler’s work as acting administrator. While Pruitt’s tenure was known more for scandals than it was for its policy developments, Wheeler has stayed out of the public eye. The former EPA employee, Capitol Hill staffer, and energy sector lobbyist has kept a low profile, but still moved policy measures such as a rewrite of the Waters of the U.S. rule.
Wheeler will be subject to a Senate confirmation process if he is to become administrator. Sen. John Barrasso, the Wyoming Republican who chairs the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee with jurisdiction over EPA, said Trump made the right choice in Wheeler.
“I am pleased President Trump has nominated Andrew Wheeler to be the administrator of the EPA,” Barrasso said. “Acting Administrator Wheeler has done an outstanding job leading EPA and is well qualified to run the agency on a permanent basis. I will work with committee members to get him confirmed.”
Ana Unruh Cohen, managing director for government affairs at the National Resources Defense Council, criticized the move.
“Even as acting administrator, Andrew Wheeler has proven he remains an ally of the coal and oil barons that once paid him, and not the American people whose health he should be protecting," she said. "Americans deserve an EPA administrator who will protect them, not the big polluters.”
Wheeler’s confirmation will be before the EPW committee, the same panel that previously confirmed him to be deputy administrator before a 53-45 Senate vote.
During the confirmation process, he will likely face questions from pro-biofuel lawmakers on the panel looking to ensure a favorable environment for the Renewable Fuel Standard under his tenure. Panel Democrats are sure to use the hearing to question Wheeler’s beliefs on climate change and press him to tighten protections on the nation’s air and water.
There has been no date set for Wheeler’s confirmation hearing.
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