President Donald Trump has nominated Andrew Wheeler, who grew up in Fairfield, to be the next administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, a move which provoked intense opposition from environmental organizations.
Wheeler graduated from Fairfield High School in 1983.
The announcement Wednesday was widely expected because Wheeler has been acting administrator of the EPA since the resignation last summer of Scott Pruitt. Wheeler is a former lobbyist whose clients included a coal company.
Wheeler’ nomination likely will lead to a difficult confirmation battle by the Senate. But because Republicans control the Senate with 53 votes, Wheeler has a good chance of being confirmed.
The Sierra Club, one of the nation’s leading environmental organizations, immediately called on the Senate to reject Wheeler’s nomination. The Sierra Club called Wheeler a “dangerous threat to the health of our families and our air and water.”
“Rob extends his congratulations to the nominee and looks forward to working with him should he be confirmed. Rob will review this nomination thoroughly as he always does,” Sen. Rob Portman’s, R-Ohio, deputy communications director Emily Benavides said Wednesday.
Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, has expressed “serious concerns” about Wheeler in the past.
Sen. Tom Carper of Delaware, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said when Wheeler was first named acting administrator, he urged him to restore public trust in the agency by heeding lessons of the past and by remedying some of Scott Pruitt’s most egregious actions and proposals. He has not done so.”
Wheeler, 53, is a graduate of Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. In an interview last year with the Hamilton News-Journal, Wheeler acknowledged “one of my clients was a coal company. I had over 20 clients, and a coal company was one of my clients.”
“I get frustrated with the media when they report I was a coal lobbyist,” he said. “Yes, I represented a coal company,” but he added that he “represented a lot of different businesses, a lot of different interests.”