This story was first published in HuffPostIt is reproduced here as part the Climate Desk collaboration.
Incoming Virginia Gov. Glenn YoungkinAndrew Wheeler, controversially elected, has been chosen Donald TrumpFormer coal lobbyist and chief of the Environmental Protection Agency in the era, to serve his secretary for natural resources.
In a Statement announcing the Cabinet pick, Youngkin said Wheeler shares his vision for “finding new ways to innovate and use our natural resources to provide Virginia with a stable, dependable and growing power supply that will meet Virginia’s power demands without passing the costs on to the consumer.”
“Virginia needs a diverse energy portfolio in place to fuel our economic growth, continued preservation of our natural resources, and a comprehensive plan to tackle rising sea levels,” Youngkin said.
Wheeler was a key figure in the Trump administration’s deregulatory agenda, rolling back numerous environmental rules to the benefit of polluting industries, and has a long history of It is important to downplay the danger of climate change. Wheeler was, for example, confirmed as head of EPA in 2019 shortly after being elected. Falsely claimed that “most of the threats from climate change are 50 to 75 years out.”
Wheeler has served on Youngkin’s transition team since November. The secretary post was announced by Wheeler. PoliticoFirst reportedWednesday’s protests drew swift retort from the state DemocratsEnvironmental groups.
“As head of EPA under former President Trump, Wheeler did nothing more than cater to corporate polluter interests time and time again, putting their welfare ahead of our environment and Americans’ health,” Michael Town, executive director of the Virginia League of Conservation Voters, said in a statement. “This is hands down the most extreme nomination for an environmental post in Virginia’s history and the absolute worst pick that the Governor-elect could make.”
US Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) slammed Wheeler as “an anti-environment ideologue” and “one of the worst people the Governor-elect could have chosen for this job.”
“He led the Trump Administration’s efforts to dismantle environmental protections, selling out the American people and the EPA’s very mission to benefit corporate polluters,” Beyer said in a statement.
Beyer noted Wheeler’s silence in the wake of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol. As HuffPostPreviously reported, Wheeler wrote in an email to agency staffers the day after Trump supporters violently stormed the Capitol that he was “completely disgusted” by the event, but planned to stay on at the EPA until President-elect Joe Biden‘s inauguration. He did not condemn the attack.
He is unlike other Trump officials. Resign following the insurrection, Wheeler “stood by Trump and refused to criticize him,” Beyer said. It remains to be seen if Wheeler’s nomination can survive the confirmation process. Democrats hold a 21-19 majority in Virginia’s state Senate.
“I know he’s new to Virginia government and all but @GlennYoungkin does understand cabinet secretaries require General Assembly approval ― right?” state Sen. Scott A. Surovell (D-Fairfax) wrote Twitter.