Andrew Wheeler being sworn in as Deputy Administrator with former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, April 2018. Image via Environmental Protection Agency.

Andrew Wheeler: Pruitt and industry puppet

by Ariel Moger, campaign research associate

Pruitt may be gone, but his legacy remains. Former coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler is now acting Environmental Protection Agency administrator, and he seems determined to continue Pruitt’s corrupt agenda. It hasn’t even been a month, and Wheeler is already shaping up to be just as swampy as his predecessor.

Wheeler is set to make his first appearance as EPA chief in front of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee today. As he testifies, it’s important to remember that Wheeler is still dutifully advancing Pruitt’s anti-environment agenda.

Here are four ways that prove Wheeler is nothing more than a #PruittPuppet.

1. Coal ash pollution

One of the first actions Andrew Wheeler took as acting EPA administrator was to roll back federal standards on coal ash pollution, the toxic slurry produced by coal-fired power plants. Rather than protect drinking water for hundreds of thousands of Americans, the Trump Administration’s regulations on coal ash will allow power plants to evade proper disposal of this industrial waste product.

It is not surprising that Wheeler finalized this policy, considering his close relationship with notorious coal boss Bob Murray. After receiving at least $3.3 million in lobbying fees from Murray Energy over the years — his best-paying client at the high-powered Washington, D.C. lobbying firm Faegre Baker Daniels — it’s probably not a coincidence that Wheeler checked off a major item from the personal policy wish list that Murray sent to Trump cabinet officials last year.

Using your government position to do favors for your private sector friends? Super Pruitt move.

2. Clean car standards

The Trump Administration is in the process of destroying landmark clean car standards that would have cut carbon dioxide emissions from cars and light trucks. The first phase of the National Program to build cleaner, more fuel-efficient vehicles started under the Obama Administration. Instead of working on the second phase of implementation, Wheeler is preparing to weaken the air quality portion of the program over which he has authority.

It’s interesting that Wheeler appears to be delaying the announcement of his proposed policy replacement until after his Senate hearing on Wednesday. Perhaps he does not want to publicly defend a policy that would mean dirtier, less efficient cars at a time when gas prices across the country are on the rise.

Avoiding tough questions on policies that prioritize corporate profits over clean air? Straight from the Pruitt playbook.

3. Clean Power Plan

In the middle of Pruitt’s resignation, the EPA finished drafting a repeal of the Clean Power Plan that would have decreased carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants. Despite the dark cloud of scandal and corruption swirling around Pruitt and his policy decisions, Wheeler is moving full steam ahead with his commitment to eviscerate Obama-era climate policies.

Picking up right where Pruitt left off, Wheeler immediately asked the Office of Management and Budget to expedite its review of the proposed rule to replace the Clean Power Plan. And yes, the Clean Power Plan is yet another policy despised by coal baron Bob Murray. It is actually the very first item listed on the Action Plan he sent to Vice President Mike Pence for the Trump Administration to implement.

Doing the fossil fuel industry’s bidding? That’s definitely following in Pruitt’s polluting footsteps.

4. Ethical lapses

On top of Pruitt’s horrible anti-environment agenda, Wheeler also seems to have inherited his predecessor’s disregard for potential conflicts of interest. Questions are already starting to surface concerning Wheeler’s meetings with industry associates, including former lobbying clients and fellow board members of the National Energy Resources Organization, which is a dubious non-profit organization composed mostly of representatives of the fossil fuel industry that Wheeler used to run .

So, while you listen to Wheeler try and distance himself from Pruitt during today’s Senate hearing, just remember: he is more of the same. His record and recent behavior prove that he is just as cozy with seedy industry representatives, just as skeptical of science, and just as opposed to vital environmental safeguards as Scott Pruitt.

After all, once a Pruitt puppet, always a Pruitt puppet.




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

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