Trump to nom­i­nate prom­i­nent coal lob­by­ist to serve as deputy chief at EPA

The Washington Post Sunday - - POLITICS & THE NATION - BY JULIET EILPERIN AND BRADY DEN­NIS juliet.eilperin@wash­post.com brady.den­nis@wash­post.com

Pres­i­dent Trump will nom­i­nate prom­i­nent coal lob­by­ist and for­mer Se­nate aide An­drew Wheeler to serve as the En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency’s deputy ad­min­is­tra­tor, ac­cord­ing to two se­nior ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials.

Wheeler, a prin­ci­pal at Fae­gre Baker Daniels Con­sult­ing, is a lob­by­ist for coal giant Mur­ray En­ergy and served as a top aide to Sen. James M. In­hofe (R-Okla.) when In­hofe chaired the Se­nate En­vi­ron­ment Com­mit­tee. He has rep­re­sented Mur­ray En­ergy — whose chief ex­ec­u­tive, Bob Mur­ray, is a prom­i­nent sup­porter of the pres­i­dent — since 2009.

In ad­di­tion to tap­ping Wheeler, ac­cord­ing to the of­fi­cials, EPA Ad­min­is­tra­tor Scott Pruitt is pre­par­ing to pick three conservatives to head three key di­vi­sions within the agency. Trump will nom­i­nate Bill Wehrum as as­so­ciate ad­min­is­tra­tor for the Of­fice of Air and Ra­di­a­tion, Matt Leopold to serve as EPA gen­eral coun­sel, and David Ross as as­sis­tant ad­min­is­tra­tor for Of­fice of Water.

Wheeler and EPA of­fi­cials de­clined to com­ment Fri­day. The fact that Wheeler was likely to be nom­i­nated was first re­ported by Ax­ios on Fri­day.

The news of these ap­point­ments is likely to cheer those who crit­i­cized how the agency op­er­ated un­der Pres­i­dent Barack Obama — and anger en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists. Wheeler has been an out­spo­ken critic of na­tion­wide lim­its on green­house-gas emis­sions, as well as sci­en­tific bod­ies such as the U.N. In­ter­gov­ern­men­tal Panel on Cli­mate Change.

In March 2010, Wheeler com­mented on a Na­tional Jour­nal blog post, say­ing that the IPCC “has func­tioned more as a po­lit­i­cal body than a sci­en­tific body” and that the agency should re­visit its 2009 find­ing that car­bon-diox­ide emis­sions pose a threat to pub­lic health. He sug­gested that law­mak­ers back a pro­posal at the time by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) to over­turn the en­dan­ger­ment find­ing and “al­low leg­is­la­tors to craft sen­si­ble en­ergy pol­icy that can pro­mote en­ergy in­de­pen­dence with­out killing our do­mes­tic pro­duc­tion of fos­sil fu­els.”

Tier­nan Sit­ten­feld, the League of Con­ser­va­tion Vot­ers’ se­nior vice pres­i­dent for gov­ern­ment af­fairs, said in email, “With these nom­i­na­tions, Pres­i­dent Trump is once again cater­ing to his pol­luter al­lies and pri­or­i­tiz­ing their prof­its over our kids’ health.”

Leopold, who served as gen­eral coun­sel for the Florida De­part­ment of En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion from March 2013 to Fe­bru­ary 2015 and in the Jus­tice De­part­ment’s en­vi­ron­ment and nat­u­ral re­sources di­vi­sion from Jan­uary 2007 to Fe­bru­ary 2013, also has ac­cused the fed­eral gov­ern­ment of reg­u­la­tory over­reach.

“The prob­lem to­day I see us fac­ing . . . is the fed­eral gov­ern­ment’s ex­pand­ing reg­u­la­tory reach,” Leopold said at a Fed­er­al­ist So­ci­ety gath­er­ing last year in Florida. “It’s crowd­ing out the proper role for the state gov­ern­ments to do what they do best. I’m not ar­gu­ing that we shouldn’t have ro­bust en­vi­ron­men­tal laws to pro­tect air, water and land — just the op­po­site.”

But he said Congress had del­e­gated too much of its au­thor­ity to fed­eral reg­u­la­tory agen­cies such as the EPA, which he said had been overly ag­gres­sive in im­pos­ing new reg­u­la­tions.

“The ques­tion is not whether we are co­op­er­at­ing,” Leopold said in ref­er­ence to the states. “The ques­tion is, where is the space the states are sup­posed to oc­cupy, and is the fed­eral gov­ern­ment step­ping too far into that space?”

Wehrum had been nom­i­nated by Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush to head the Of­fice of Air and Ra­di­a­tion but with­drew his nom­i­na­tion in 2007 af­ter Democrats com­plained that the plan he helped craft to limit pol­lu­tion from power plants, known as Clear Skies, was too weak. Wehrum is now a part­ner at the D.C. law firm Hun­ton & Wil­liams.

“Bill’s an ex­pe­ri­enced en­vi­ron­men­tal lawyer with an en­cy­clo­pe­dic knowl­edge of the Clean Air Act,” said Joseph Stanko, a col­league of Wehrum’s at Hun­ton who rep­re­sents util­ity com­pa­nies, “and well re­spected by EPA staff from his prior ser­vice at the agency.”

Ross now serves as Wis­con­sin as­sis­tant at­tor­ney gen­eral and direc­tor of the en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion unit of the state’s Jus­tice De­part­ment. He pre­vi­ously had worked in pri­vate prac­tice on en­vi­ron­men­tal and land-use law.

When Wis­con­sin At­tor­ney Gen­eral Brad Schimel named Ross direc­tor of the en­vi­ron­men­tal unit in Au­gust, Schimel said the de­part­ment “takes se­ri­ously its role in en­vi­ron­men­tal en­force­ment, and the ad­di­tion of Dave Ross to my lead­er­ship team will of­fer a new man­age­ment per­spec­tive and two decades of en­vi­ron­men­tal lit­i­ga­tion and con­sult­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.” More at wash­ing­ton­post.com/ news/en­ergy-en­vi­ron­ment

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