In a move that was long expected, President Donald Trump formally nominated Andrew Wheeler to serve as the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.
The White House announced Wednesday the president has sent Wheeler’s nomination to the Senate. The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee — which must pass Wheeler before he can get a vote on the Senate floor — is scheduled to first consider his nomination on Jan. 16, according to the committee’s website.
“I am honored and grateful that President Trump has nominated me to lead the Environmental Protection Agency,” Wheeler, who has already served as acting EPA administrator for six months, stated Wednesday. “For me, there is no greater responsibility than protecting human health and the environment, and I look forward to carrying out this essential task on behalf of the American public.”
The promotion was widely anticipated after Trump, speaking at a Medal of Freedom ceremony in November, said he intended to nominate Wheeler to the top spot.
If his nomination is successful, Wheeler’s role in the agency wouldn’t be much different from what it is now. He was formerly the deputy administrator of the EPA and became acting administrator following Scott Pruitt’s resignation in July. Pruitt, who served as Oklahoma attorney general before Trump tapped him to lead the EPA, resigned six months ago amid mounting ethics scandals.
Since taking the reins of the EPA, Wheeler has mostly carried on Pruitt’s legacy of deregulation and extensive rollbacks of generation industry rules. Under his tutelage, the EPA has proposed freezing auto efficiency standards, replacing carbon emission limits on power plants with softer rules, and easing restrictions on wetlands and streams.
Such moves have earned Wheeler plaudits from industry officials, but has also attracted sharp criticism in environmental circles.
“The only thing Wheeler is going to protect at the EPA is the profits of polluters,” Brett Hartl, a spokesman with the Center for Biological Diversity, an environmental group, said in a statement. “I’m sure corporate board rooms will celebrate this nomination. But for anyone who drinks water, breathes air or cares about wildlife, this will be nothing but awful.”
Given the GOP enjoys a majority in the upper chamber of Congress, Wheeler’s confirmation is likely. However, Senate confirmation battles have becoming increasingly partisan in the modern era.
One of Trump’s recent nominees, Bernard McNamee, for example, passed his Senate confirmation in December to become the newest member of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission by a 50-49 vote.
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