President Donald Trump is expected to nominate Andrew Wheeler, currently acting administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), to take over the position permanently, it was revealed on Friday afternoon.
“Acting Administrator, who I will tell you is going to be made permanent, he’s done a fantastic job and I want to congratulate him,” Trump said of Wheeler during a Medal of Freedom ceremony at the White House.
Wheeler, a former coal lobbyist, has surpassed his first 100 days as acting EPA chief. He took over the reins after former administrator Scott Pruitt resigned on July 5 under a cloud of scandals; that same day, Trump named Wheeler as acting administrator.
Before becoming the permanent administrator, Wheeler’s nomination will have to be sent to the Senate, which requires a majority to vote on his confirmation — a likely outcome as the Senate retained its Republican majority after the midterm elections. The Senate previously confirmed his nomination to become deputy EPA administrator by a vote of 53 to 45.
During this time, Wheeler has largely followed in Pruitt’s footsteps, working to roll back the Obama EPA’s Clean Power Plan, automobile air emissions standards, and protections from mercury poisoning, and placing the head of the Office of Children’s Health on leave.
Critics, however, have warned that Wheeler may be even more effective at cutting back on environmental protections than Pruitt.
Wheeler’s past experience as an EPA staffer and top Republican aide on Capitol Hill means he understands how to navigate the political process. As Janet Redman, climate campaign director at Greenpeace USA, previously told ThinkProgress, “The fact that he’s more familiar with the inner workings of the D.C.-policy making machine could make him even more effective than Pruitt at carrying out Trump’s extreme and dangerous pro-polluter, anti-people agenda.”