Oklahoma U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe and the White House are left wondering what will be the fate of EPA deputy nominee Andrew Wheeler, the man chosen to be Scott Pruitt’s No. 2.
In light of the White House decision recently to withdraw the nomination of Kathleen Harnett White to a top EPA job, Wheeler’s supporters wonder when and if he will get a full senate confirmation vote.
The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee voted last week to send his nomination to the full Senate. The vote was 11-10 with Democrats will questioning Wheeler’s ties to Murray Energy, the privately owned coal giant.
It was the second time the committee had to vote on Wheeler’s nomination since the U.S. Senate failed to take up his confirmation in 2017, forcing President Trump to renominate him.
Wheeler also spent four years at the EPA’s Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics during the George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton administrations.
The current chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, John Barrasso is confident Wheeler will escape what happened to Harnett White.
“I think we’ll get there, yes I do,” he told Politico’s Morning Energy report. “Sen. [Tom] Carper and I are working together to make sure it happens.”
But Carper still has some questions.
“We all need to understand whether this administration will govern in a manner that brings regulatory certainty to industry, or heeds to the wishes of Wheeler’s former client,” he said.
At the time of his nomination last fall, Wheeler was a principal at FaegreBD Consulting and did guidance on federal regulatory and legislative environmental and energy issues. He helped lobby for Murray Energy but de-registered as a lobbyist in August 2017.
Republicans on the committee have complained of the slowness in getting approval of nominees for the EPA.
Carper countered he is not “interested in blocking nominees for the sake of blocking nominees,” and vowed to work together with Republicans.
“This is a chance this year to work together on a more positive basis,” Carper said, adding there is “blame to go around on both sides” for the slowness of filling appointments in the Trump administration.
“Andrew will bring extraordinary credentials to EPA that will greatly assist the Agency as we work to implement our agenda,” said Scott Pruitt last year, the former Oklahoma Attorney General who is now Administrator of the EPA. “He has spent his entire career working to improve environmental outcomes for Americans across the country and understands the importance of providing regularity certainty for our country.”
Of course, Sen. Inhofe supported the nomination last year.
“I am pleased that President Trump has nominated Andrew Wheeler to serve as deputy administrator at the EPA. There is no one more qualified than Andrew to help Scott Pruitt restore EPA to its proper size and scope. When he served as my staff director of the Environment and Public Works Committee, he provided me with invaluable guidance, and in turn became a close friend. I am confident he will serve the American people and President Trump with exceptional skill in this position, and I look forward to ensuring his swift confirmation.”