Drain the Swamp: EPA’s new coal-lobbyist administrator is MORE corrupt than Pruitt

  • Published on July 11th, 2018

While we’re happy to see Scott Pruitt’s resignation after his lengthy list of scandals and attempts to roll back clean air and water standards, the Sierra Club will not rest in ensuring that the next Environmental Protection Agency administrator restores public trust in the agency and acts to let the agency fulfill its mission.

Bruce Plante Cartoon: Scott Pruitt's replacement, EPA, Environmental Protection Agency, President Donald J. Trump, The Swamp, Plante 20180706By Mary Ann Hitt
Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign

The acting EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler, a coal lobbyist dogged by ethical questions, is not the person to do that. He’s already made headlines over conflicts of interest and bizarre tweets, and we’re finding more scandals in the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) documents we received from the EPA.

Here’s a list of Wheeler’s ethical problems that should concern everyone:

1. Wheeler’s Ties To Polluters Run Deep: Since 2009, Wheeler has lobbied for at least 17 companies, including mining, coal, gas, nuclear energy, auto and food industries companies, according to CNN. On March 29, 2017, then-coal lobbyist Wheeler was at a secret Administration meeting pushing a plan to “save coal.” Attendees included Wheeler, Department of Energy Secretary Rick Perry, and Murray Energy CEO Bob Murray. DOE photographer , then-coal lobbyist Wheeler was at a secret Administration meeting pushing a plan to "save coal." Attendees included Wheeler, Department of Energy Secretary Rick Perry, and Murray Energy CEO Bob Murray. and whistleblower Simon Edelman was fired after releasing photos of the meeting, including this one with Andrew Wheeler pictured on the right.

One of the energy companies that Wheeler lobbied for, Energy Fuels Inc, is seeking contracts from the EPA. Another of these companies is Celanese Corp., a major formaldehyde manufacturer. According to Politico, EPA is holding onto a report detailing that most Americans inhale enough formaldehyde through daily life to put them at risk of developing leukemia.

Despite his lengthy industry connections, Wheeler has only recused himself from working on Energy Star — all other conflicts of interest are still in Wheeler’s wheelhouse.

2. He Tried to Cozy Up to Scott Pruitt While Seeking Deputy Nomination: While he was a lobbyist for corporate polluters and being considered for the Deputy EPA Administrator position, Wheeler courted Pruitt numerous times with invitations to events, according to Sierra Magazine, shattering traditional  expectations for a potential nominee.

3. He Really, Really Likes Money: In an exchange with Pruitt’s chief deputy about Wheeler’s pending nomination to be Deputy Administrator, Wheeler was pretty clear. But are we talking $1,500 in pens here?

4. He Hosted Fundraisers for Senators: Shortly before being confirmed as deputy EPA administrator, Wheeler hosted fundraisers for senators voting on his nomination.

5. He’s Even Backed the Racist Talking Head Milo Yiannopoulos: He deleted his “Milo Truther” conspiracy theorist tweet, in which he promoted a video by one of the leading figures on the notorious InfoWarz conspiracy site. But before he did, the Sierra Club captured a screenshot here.

Speaking of Wheeler’s bizarre Tweets, here’s one where he promoted a conspiracy theory against on the American Lung Association for its relationship with the …. EPA. He has yet to delete the tweet.

6. Pruitt’s Close Confidants Are On His Team: The person Wheeler dispatched to assure the public things are going to change for the better at EPA, John Konkus, is a Pruitt hire who supposedly resigned in May. While at EPA Konkus has/had several undisclosed outside clients and who collaborated with external climate denier groups.

Finally, you don’t have to take my word for it – in his first Tweet as acting Administrator, Wheeler shared an article from the Wall Street Journal and highlighted the headline: “Acting EPA Chief Plans to Stick With @POTUS Trump’s Priorities.” That means he will try to pick up where Pruitt left off, in carrying out a wish list drafted by fossil fuel polluters and climate deniers.

We won’t let him get away with it. All of the energy and passion that went into #BootPruitt will continue, focused on Andrew Wheeler and making sure the EPA returns to its mission. The Sierra Club will continue our advocacy. We’ll beyond coalcontinue to mobilize members and supporters all over the country. We’ll continue our legal work to ensure transparency and accountability in government, while protecting public health and natural resources. And, in particular, the Sierra Club’s FOIA work will not stop unearthing more documents from EPA that will provide the public with a clear picture of just for whom Andrew Wheeler is working.

We won’t rest until EPA is allowed to fulfill its mission, to protect the health of all our families and the safety of our air, water, and climate. You can help by taking action here!

(Mary Anne Hitt is the director of the Sierra Club Beyond Coal Campaign. Image Source:  Simon Edelman, Department of Energy)

About the Author

Not only is coal burning responsible for one third of US carbon emissions—the main contributor to climate disruption—but it is also making us sick, leading to as many as 13,000 premature deaths every year and more than $100 billion in annual health costs. The Beyond Coal campaign’s main objective is to replace dirty coal with clean energy by mobilizing grassroots activists in local communities to advocate for the retirement of old and outdated coal plants and to prevent new coal plants from being built.