President Donald Trump is expected to nominate a top coal lobbyist as the number two person at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Axios reported Friday.
Coal industry lobbyist Andrew Wheeler will become EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s second lieutenant. Trump’s decision to choose Wheeler comes a month after the president signaled his intention to select a former agency official during the Bush administration.
The White House was poised to select Jeff Holmstead, a former top EPA official under President George W. Bush. Holmstead would be a more moderate choice compared to Wheeler, who has been more public about his skeptical position on climate change than Holmstead.
Wheeler is a lobbyist for Murray Energy, the coal mining company whose CEO is an adamant Trump supporter. He has lobbied on behalf of CEO Robert Murray and other coal producers since at least 2009, according to lobbying disclosure data.
Wheeler’s nominating process could become contentious. Pruitt faced a withering array of questions during his confirmation hearing in February — the U.S. Senate voted 52-46 to confirm Pruitt earlier this year.
Democratic lawmakers tried to postpone the former Oklahoma AG’s confirmation vote, arguing there should be no vote until Pruitt released thousands of emails allegedly connecting him to fossil fuel interests.
Trump campaigned during the presidential election as a supporter of the coal industry. He promised to roll back a slew of former President Barack Obama’s climate regulations.
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