U.S. EPA Deputy Administrator Andrew Wheeler (USEPA photo by Eric Vance)
Photo: Eric Vance/USEPA photo by Eric Vance
Photo: Eric Vance/USEPA photo by Eric Vance

Fairfield’s Andrew Wheeler, the U.S. EPA’s No. 2, says he’s not aiming to lead the agency

Wheeler, a native of Fairfield, told the Journal-News in an exclusive interview last week his focus is on the “aggressive agenda” put forward by Administrator Scott Pruitt, which includes incorporating cooperative federalism (where governments interact cooperatively and collectively to solve common problems) and the rule of law.

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: EPA’s No. 2: Superfund sites — including one locally — among agency’s top priorities

Wheeler, 53, told this week a reporter from The Hill, a new outlet that reports on Washington, D.C. politics, “I’m the deputy administrator, that’s the position I signed up for, that’s the position I wanted. I didn’t want to be the administrator, still don’t want to be the administrator.”

He also told The Hill he’s there to help with Pruitt President Trump’s agendas for the agency. “That’s what my job is,” he said.

In his interview with the Journal-News, Wheeler wouldn’t talk about the active investigations into Pruitt’s management of the EPA, or the calls for him to resign or be fire.

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“There’s open investigations going so I don’t want to comment about the investigations themselves,” he said. “I’ve actually never talked to him about those personal issues. He comes to work and he focuses on his job. And I think a lot of other people would not. They would be consumed.”

Wheeler said he’s “really been impressed” that he says Pruitt isn’t distracted by the investigations or the political discourse calling for him to be out as the head of the EPA.

“It could be (a big distraction) but he’s made sure it’s not,” he said.

Pruitt is facing about a dozen investigations into his spending and management decisions at the agency. If he is forced to step down, Wheeler would replace him until Trump names, and the Senate confirms, a new administrator.

Republicans say Wheeler, 53, is well-qualified to lead the agency. He started his career at the EPA in 1991 before moving onto Capitol Hill where he worked for both Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Oklahoma, and the late Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio. He also served as Republican staff chief of the Senate Environment Committee before going into private law practice and becoming a lobbyist nine years ago.

Wheeler said he’s focused on the EPA and working to streamline the application process and provide quicker enforcement decisions. He’s also focused “to speed up the clean up” of Superfund sites, which will allow these properties to be reclaimed and put back on the market.”

One of those sites identified by the EPA is the former Peters Cartridge Factory in Kings Mills in Warren County. Copper, lead and mercury have contaminated the soil around the former factory located along the Little Miami River.

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