“I did work for a coal company and I’m not ashamed of the work I did for a coal company,” the new head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Andrew Wheeler, recently told agency employees.
Wheeler’s statements highight an unfortunate reality in the wake of former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s resignation last week: Fans of clean air and water should know that many more challenges await. After all, Wheeler’s background could hardly be less inspiring.
Until last year, Wheeler worked as the top lobbyist for Murray Energy, the largest underground coal mining company in the country.
Murray Energy’s CEO, Robert Murray, is a top Trump backer, having donated $300,000 to the president’s inaugural fund. Months later, the company provided the Trump administration with an “Action Plan” that called for cutting the staff at the EPA in half and subsidizing coal-fired power plants, among other things. Four days after that memo was authored, Murray Energy gave $1 million to a Trump-tied Super PAC. Wheeler helped Murray secure a meeting with Energy Secretary Perry in spring 2017 as Murray pushed for a senseless bailout of dirty coal power.
It’s true that Wheeler isn’t exactly being evasive about his true agenda. But if there was any doubt, fossil fuel industry mouthpiece Myron Ebell of the Competitive Enterprise Institute cleared that up, telling E&E News that Wheeler would not “take on clients that he doesn’t have some fundamental agreement with.”
Wheeler first appeared on Public Citizen’s radar two decades ago, while working as counsel for that same committee, when he received a free trips to Las Vegas and New Orleans for the purpose of a proposed nuclear waste disposal site and a power plant. His New Orleans stay happened to coincide with the Jazz Festival in New Orleans, where he stayed at the four-star Westin Canal Place Hotel in the French Quarter, offering a heated rooftop pool, complete health club facilities and a marble bath.