“I feel excited and a little overwhelmed at the same time,” Wheeler told this news outlet. He said he’s excited the process is over and is able to get to work at the EPA, but “it’s quite humbling to hear yourself talked about on the Senate floor for quite some time, and people saying some not so nice things about you.”
Republicans said Wheeler, 53, is well-qualified to lead the agency, having worked at the EPA early in his career and serving as Republican staff chief of the Senate Environment Committee before becoming a lobbyist nine years ago.
Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso, chairman of the Senate environment panel, said Wheeler has demonstrated his commitment to sound environmental policies and has “exemplified excellence in his professional endeavors,” both in government and in the private sector.
Senators approved Wheeler despite complaints from Democrats that Wheeler helped lead a fight by the coal industry to block regulations that protect Americans’ health and begin to address climate change.
If Pruitt is forced to step down, Wheeler would replace him until the Trump administration names a new administrator.
Until his nomination by President Donald Trump last fall, Wheeler worked as a lobbyist with a client list that included Murray Energy, one of the nation’s largest coal mining companies. He accompanied Murray CEO Robert “Bob” Murray during a series of closed-door meetings to lobby the Trump administration to kill environmental regulations affecting coal mines.
Fairfield Mayor Steve Miller grew up with Wheeler, and calls his friend’s appointment “fantastic.”
“I’ve known Andrew since we were kids, we grew up together and graduated high school together,” Miller said. “He’s a good man and I think he absolutely would do a fantasitc job for the EPA. He’s always been a good guy.”
The Associated Press and staff writer Michael D. Pitman contributed to this report.