Wheeler’s industry ties provide a clear sign that the Trump administration will continue to push policy that is favorable to the energy industry, rankling environmentalists and scientists seeking to curb climate change and boost cleaner energy alternatives.
On Friday, the Sierra Club, a prominent environmentalist organization, released a statement denouncing Wheeler and cited his past experience as a lobbyist as to why he should not be in charge of the EPA.
“A coal lobbyist dogged by ethical questions like Andrew Wheeler is not the person to (lead EPA). Senators must confirm a nominee who will hold the health and safety of American families in higher regard than the profits of big polluters," said Michael Brune, the executive director of the group.
Democratic lawmakers have already started calling Trump's choice to replace Pruitt with Wheeler as an attempt to dismantle the EPA.
"Scott Pruitt’s acting replacement, Andrew Wheeler, is a former coal lobbyist and climate-change denier," Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., tweeted on Friday. "The attempt to dismantle the EPA from the inside continues."
The former lobbyist will likely be a reliable ally in Trump’s bid to deregulate the energy industry and his desire to “end the war on coal.” Trump often notes that he “saved the coal industry,” using it as a rallying cry for his supporters in states where coal mining jobs are disappearing.
He has consistently rolled back Obama-era regulations, including the proposed Clean Power Plan which was meant to take on global warming.
Recently, the Trump administration drafted a memo calling for the Energy Department to look into how to best to curb job losses at coal and nuclear plants.
However, nonprofit independent research group Resources for the Future says that for every 4.5 mining jobs saved by Trump’s policies, one American would die from the surge in air pollution associated with an increase in fossil fuels.
The study also found that the drafted policy would add at least 790 coal mining jobs each year.