Andrew R. Wheeler
Andrew R. Wheeler
|15th Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency|
|Assumed office |
February 28, 2019
Acting: July 9, 2018 – February 28, 2019
|Deputy||Henry Darwin (acting)|
|Preceded by||Scott Pruitt|
|Deputy Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency|
April 20, 2018 – February 28, 2019
|Preceded by||Robert Perciasepe|
|Succeeded by||Henry Darwin (acting)|
|Born||December 23, 1964|
Hamilton, Ohio, U.S.
|Education||Case Western Reserve University (BA)|
Washington University (JD)
George Mason University (MBA)
Andrew R. Wheeler (born December 23, 1964) is an American attorney and serves as the 15th Administrator of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). He served as the deputy administrator from April to July 2018, and served as the acting administrator from July 2018 to February 2019. He previously worked in the law firm Faegre Baker Daniels, representing coal magnate Robert E. Murray and lobbying against the Obama Administration's environmental regulations. Wheeler served as chief counsel to the United States Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works and to the chairman U.S. Senator James Inhofe, prominent for his rejection of climate change. Wheeler is a critic of limits on greenhouse gas emissions and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
In October 2017, Wheeler was nominated by President Trump, renominated in January 2018 and confirmed as Deputy Administrator of the EPA in April 2018. On July 9, 2018, Wheeler became the Acting Administrator following the resignation of Scott Pruitt. On November 16, 2018, President Trump announced he would nominate Wheeler to serve as the EPA's permanent administrator. He was confirmed for the position by a 52-47 vote in the Senate on February 28, 2019.
Early life and education
Wheeler was born in Hamilton, Ohio on December 23, 1964. He obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree, with majors in English and biology, from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1987; and a Juris Doctor degree from the Washington University in St. Louis School of Law, in 1990. In 1998, he completed a Master of Business Administration degree at George Mason University.
Wheeler's first job between 1991 and 1995 was as special assistant to the Information Management Division Director in the Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics. working on toxic chemical, pollution prevention, and right-to-know issues. Wheeler received the Agency's Bronze Medal in 1993 and twice in 1994.
U.S. Senate staff, 1995–2009
From January 1995 until January 1997, Wheeler worked as Chief Counsel of Senator Jim Inhofe. In 1997 Wheeler entered his first work in Congress as majority staff director at the US Senate Subcommittee on Clean Air, Climate Change, Wetlands, and Nuclear Safety, which Inhofe chaired until 2001; thereafter he was minority staff director under Chairman George Voinovich from 2001-2003. From 2003-2009 he was chief counsel at the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. During this time, he generally sought to reduce government regulations on industries that generate greenhouse gases. Senator James Inhofe was prominent for his rejection of climate change, and famously brought a snowball to the Senate as alleged proof that climate change was not real.
During his time at the Senate, he was named by the National Journal as one of the Top Congressional Staff Leaders in 2005 and was a John C. Stennis Congressional Staff Fellow in the 106th Congress.
From 2009 until 2017, Wheeler was a lobbyist in the law firm Faegre Baker Daniels' energy and natural resources practice. Since 2009, he represented the coal producer Murray Energy, privately owned by Robert E. Murray, a supporter of President Trump. Murray Energy was Wheeler's best-paying client, paying more than $300,000 during the period 2009-2017. Wheeler lobbied against the Obama administration's climate regulations for power plants and also sought to persuade the Energy Department to subsidize coal plants. Wheeler set up a meeting between Murray and Energy Secretary Rick Perry in March 2017; at the meeting, Murray advocated for the rollback of environmental regulations and for protections for the coal industry.
EPA Deputy Administrator, 2018
In October 2017, Wheeler was nominated by President Trump to become Deputy Administrator of the United States Environmental Protection Agency. His nomination was returned to the White House on January 3, 2018 as the Senate had adjourned at the end of 2017 without taking up the nomination (Senate Rule XXXI, paragraph 6.). His nomination was resubmitted and he was confirmed as Deputy Administrator of the EPA on April 12, 2018, by a mostly party-line vote of 53–45, which included three Democratic Senators: Joe Manchin, Heidi Heitkamp, and Joe Donnelly.
Since being sworn in, Wheeler has had at least three meetings with former lobbying clients of his in a potential violation of the Trump administration's ethics pledge and the promises that Wheeler made during his confirmation hearing. Justina Fugh, an EPA ethics official, said that Wheeler's meetings with former lobbying clients did not violate the Trump administration's ethics pledge, because Wheeler had not worked on their behalf in the two years prior to joining the EPA.
EPA Acting Administrator, 2018
Scott Pruitt announced on July 5, 2018, he would be resigning effective July 6. He left Wheeler as the acting head of the agency. On October 14, 2018, the New York Times published an op-ed against Wheeler's proposal to denigrate the public health benefits of reducing air pollution, aimed at a 2011 Obama administration finding that saw this as an asset to any information in controlling a particular pollutant. Later, on November 16, 2018, Wheeler was nominated to be Administrator of the EPA, after being deputy administrator for five months.
In 2018, after a National Climate Assessment report about the impact of climate change in the United States was released by the Trump administration (which had been in the works for several years, stretching into the Obama presidency), the EPA under Wheeler's tenure dismissed the report's findings. The EPA falsely claimed that the Obama administration had pushed the authors of the report to focus on the worst-case scenario. In doing so, the EPA cited a story by the Daily Caller, a conservative website founded by Fox News pundit Tucker Carlson. FactCheck.Org wrote about the Daily Caller story that there was no evidence for the claims made, the report focused both on lower and higher scenarios, and much of the report looked at climate change impacts that had already occurred. FactCheck.Org noted that the report underwent multiple reviews, both internally and externally, and that the report was available for public review for a period of three months. The Daily Caller cited as evidence for its claims a memo that allegedly showed that the Obama administration pushed the authors of the report to include worst-case scenarios; FactCheck.Org noted the memo "does not show that the Obama administration pushed for certain scenarios."
Asked in November 2018 to name three EPA policies that had contributed to cleaner air, Wheeler struggled to answer and two of his three answers were about rollbacks of Obama administration policies intended to curb pollution.
EPA Administrator, 2019
In 2019, Wheeler argued in favor of a proposed EPA rule that would prohibit the EPA from using studies that do not make raw data publicly available, a rule first proposed under Wheeler's predecessor, Scott Pruitt. Wheeler framed the proposal as a "transparency" rule; scientists opposed the rule, stating that it would seriously limit the research available to the EPA, because studies not tend to make personal and confidential information available. The proposal could prevent EPA from using many important studies underpinning various regulations, including regulations on air pollution. The proposed rule was denounced by 69 scientific and medical groups (including the American Lung Association, American Medical Association, and American Psychological Association) and the editors of five leading scientific journals (Nature, Cell, PLOS One, and Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences). A bipartisan group of former EPA administrators, testifying before the House Energy Subcommittee on Oversight, also criticized proposals to restrict the use of science in EPA decisionmaking. The EPA's Science Advisory Board also pushed back against the proposal.
In arguing in favor of the proposed rule, Wheeler called on the EPA to use the kind of double-blind studies that the FDA uses. This assertion was criticized by the Union of Concerned Scientists, which described Wheeler's comment as "breath-takingly ignorant" because double-blind studies (study designs in which "both researchers and study subjects don't know which subjects are given the placebo versus the treatment" are possible in drug trials but are unfeasible in most of the kind of research that the EPA does, which revolves around measuring environmental impacts.
Wheeler publishes articles in the magazine Law360. In 2010, he questioned the scientific rigor of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, expressing his impression that the positions of the organization were based more on political worldview than scientific facts. Asked if he accepted the scientific consensus on climate change during his confirmation hearings as Deputy Director of the EPA, Wheeler answered, "I believe that man has an impact on the climate but what's not completely understood is what the impact is."
In March 2019, Wheeler said he did not believe that climate change was an existential threat. His remarks came in the wake of an IPCC report which concluded that if greenhouse gas emissions were not halved by 2030, there would be catastrophic consequences for the world.
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. "EPA's Deputy Administrator". Retrieved April 23, 2018.
- Wolff, Eric (May 5, 2018). "Pruitt's replacement 'should scare anyone who breathes'". Politico (updated July 5, 2018). Retrieved July 5, 2018.
- Mufson, Steven (July 5, 2018). "Scott Pruitt's likely successor has long lobbying history on issues before the EPA". Washington Post. Retrieved July 5, 2018.
- Farrick, Ryan J. (July 26, 2017). "Trump Nominates Coal Industry Lobbyist Andrew Wheeler To Help Run EPA". Legal Reader. Retrieved August 25, 2017.
- Friedman, Lisa (October 5, 2017). "Trump Nominates a Coal Lobbyist to Be No. 2 at E.P.A." New York Times. Retrieved October 6, 2017.
- "PN1084 — Andrew Wheeler — Environmental Protection Agency (115th Congress, 2017-2018)". U.S. Senate. Retrieved January 29, 2018.
- Mufson, Steven; Dennis, Brady; Grandoni, Dino (April 12, 2018). "Senate confirms a former coal lobbyist as Scott Pruitt's second-in-command at EPA". Washington Post. Retrieved April 13, 2018.
- Scott Pruitt resigns as EPA head, Boston Globe, July 5, 2018. Retrieved July 5, 2018.
- Friedman, Lisa (November 16, 2018). "Trump Says He'll Nominate Andrew Wheeler to Head the E.P.A." The New York Times.
- Daly, Matthew (February 28, 2019). "Senate confirms acting EPA chief for permanent role". Associated Press. Retrieved February 28, 2019.
- A brief guide to Andrew Wheeler, Scott Pruitt's replacement at the EPA
- Friedman, Lisa (2008). The Almanac of the Unelected: Staff of the U.S. Congress 2008. Bernan Press. p. 614. ISBN 9781598882988.
- "Case Western Reserve University Alumni Graduates of 1987". Case Western Reserve University. Retrieved August 25, 2017.
- "Class Notes 1990" (PDF). Washington university law magazine. 2009. Retrieved August 25, 2017.
- Friedman, Lisa (2008). The Almanac of the Unelected: Staff of the U.S. Congress. Bernan Press. p. 614. ISBN 978-1598881844.
- "Andrew R. Wheeler". Faegre Baker Daniels. Retrieved August 25, 2017.
- "Get To Know Andrew Wheeler, Ex-Coal Lobbyist With Inside Track To Lead EPA". NPR.org. Retrieved July 7, 2018.
- "Sources:Trump expected to tap Wheeler as EPA deputy". Politico. March 16, 2017. Retrieved August 25, 2017.
- Andrew Wheeler Linked in profile, retrieved 13 July 2018. Quote: "Andrew's unique position and broad expertise in domestic and international public policy has helped him develop a highly specialized view of how to execute effective advocacy programs before the U.S. Congress and the Executive Branch involving all aspects of energy and environmental policy.His knowledge and insider understanding of the Senate, House and various federal agencies allows Andrew to develop tailored, comprehensive strategies that assist clients in realizing their federal affairs goals and build lasting relationships with key policymakers."
- "Trump to name coal lobbyist as deputy EPA chief: report". The Hill. March 16, 2017. Retrieved August 25, 2017.
- "Trump to tap longtime coal lobbyist for EPA's No. 2 spot". The Washington Post. September 29, 2017. Retrieved August 25, 2017.
- Friedman, Lisa (October 5, 2017). "Trump Nominates a Coal Lobbyist to Be No. 2 at E.P.A." The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved February 6, 2018.
- Senate confirms a former coal lobbyist as Scott Pruitt's second-in-command at EPA, Washington Post, Steven Mufson, Brady Dennis & Dino Grandoni, April 12, 2018. Retrieved April 13, 2018.
- "EPA: Despite his assurances, Wheeler met with former clients". www.eenews.net. Retrieved 2018-07-26.
- Cama, Timothy (2018-07-27). "EPA ethics official defends Wheeler over meetings". TheHill. Retrieved 2019-03-13.
- Timothy Cama, EPA chief draws sharp contrast to Pruitt, The Hill (July 15, 2018).
- Editorial: Environmental Protection Racket, The New York Times, October 14, 2018, p.8
- Ellen Knickmeyer, Trump says he'll name Andrew Wheeler Permanent Head of EPA, Associated Press (November 16, 2018).
- McDonald, Jessica (2018-12-26). "Trump Administration Distorts the Facts On Climate Report". FactCheck.org. Retrieved 2019-06-11.
- Gregory Wallace. "Acting EPA administrator says administration deserves credit for decline in carbon emissions in wake of climate report". CNN. Retrieved November 28, 2018.
- Roll Call Vote #33: Question: On the Nomination (Confirmation Andrew Wheeler, of Virginia, to be Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, United States Senate, 116th Congress (1st Session).
- Marianne Lavelle, EPA Science Advisers Push Back on Wheeler, Say He's Minimizing Their Role, InsideClimate News (June 6, 2019).
- Robinson Meyer, Even Geologists Hate the EPA's New Science Rule, The Atlantic (July 17, 2018).
- Nina Pullano, 3 Republican ex-EPA Chiefs Rebuke Trump EPA on Climate Policy & Science, InsideClimate News (June 11, 2019).
- "Wheeler's Breathtaking Ignorance of Science, in One Comment". Union of Concerned Scientists. 2019-06-06. Retrieved 2019-06-09.
- "Reports: Trump to nominate coal lobbyist Wheeler to deputy EPA slot". UtilityDive. July 25, 2017. Retrieved August 25, 2017.
- "EPA: Wheeler on climate: 'I don't see it as the existential threat'". www.eenews.net. Retrieved 2019-06-11.
- "NERO Officers 2015 - 2016". National Energy Resources Organization. Retrieved August 25, 2017.
- "Coal Lobbyist Could Be Next EPA Deputy Administrator". EcoWatch. March 18, 2017. Retrieved August 25, 2017.
| Deputy Administrator of the United States Environmental Protection Agency
| Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency