Three things to know about Andrew Wheeler and the company he keeps

by Ariel E. Moger, campaign research associate

It’s official: Scott Pruitt is no longer administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency! In typical Trump fashion, the president announced via Twitter that he officially accepted Pruitt’s resignation.

For months, Pruitt has been plagued by countless scandals, ethics reviews and over a dozen federal investigations. Even Republicans were getting tired of his corruption. Pruitt’s resignation is a victory for our environment and for all Americans who care about this country.

While Pruitt’s departure is worth celebrating, it is important to mention that Trump included someone else in his tweet: Andrew Wheeler. He announced that “Andy” would be assuming the duties of acting administrator of the EPA starting Monday. This is not good news.

Wheeler is a former coal lobbyist who is cozy with climate skeptics and fossil fuel interests. After a career of over 25 years in Washington, he has accumulated some truly unsavory connections.

As he prepares to take the helm at EPA, here are a few of Andrew Wheeler’s most dangerous friends and associates:

Bob Murray. Wheeler worked at the high-powered Washington, D.C. lobbying firm Faegre Baker Daniels. There he represented notorious coal boss and Murray Energy CEO Bob Murray, netting $3.3 million in lobbying fees from said partnership. Thanks to a whistleblower, we also know that Wheeler personally accompanied Murray last year to the Department of Energy, where both men advocated for a bailout of the nation’s failing coal and nuclear plants that could cost electricity consumers a whopping $11 billion. Murray doesn’t take criticism well, and when he was still a client of Wheeler’s, he tried to sue comedian John Oliver for making fun of him on HBO.

The National Energy Resources Organization. Andrew Wheeler has a strong connection to this self-proclaimed “primary networking organization for energy interests in Washington, DC.” From 2014 to 2015, Wheeler served as chairman of NERO’s Executive Board and from 2015 to 2016, he was the organization’s chairman emeritus. The executive board of NERO features officials from the American Petroleum Institute, Shell Oil and Exxon Mobil.

James Inhofe. Republican Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe famously brought a snowball onto the Senate floor to disprove global warming and wrote a book titled “The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future.” Before Wheeler rode the revolving door into private practice, he was one of Sen. Inhofe’s top staffers for over a decade. The two have kept in touch ever since and, as recently as last fall, Wheeler hosted a fundraiser for Inhofe while the Senate was considering his nomination for the EPA — an ethical disaster. The two may also have more in common than a work history; when Wheeler was asked about climate change during his confirmation, he fell back on typical climate denier talking points.

Although this change in leadership will not stop the constant attacks from the Trump Administration on our environment and public health, Pruitt’s resignation is still a monumental achievement. But we must remember that the fight for clean air, clean water and a healthy planet is not over.

We need to continue fighting for an EPA that protects us — the American people — and not greedy corporate polluters.

Friends of the Earth

Written by

Friends of the Earth U.S. defends the environment and champions a healthy and just world. www.foe.org

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