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Trump to nominate acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler as agency's permanent chief 

Key Points
  • Andrew Wheeler will be nominated to permanently lead the Environmental Protection Agency, President Donald Trump said Friday.
  • Wheeler, 53, has served as the acting head of the EPA since his predecessor, former Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, resigned under a cloud of ethics investigations in July.
  • Trump made the announcement at the White House while welcoming various administration officials before awarding the Presidential Medal of Freedom to seven people.
Andrew Wheeler, acting administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), arrives on stage with President Donald Trump during the White House State Leadership Day conference in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2018. 
Al Drago | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Andrew Wheeler will be nominated to permanently lead the Environmental Protection Agency, President Donald Trump said Friday.

Wheeler, 53, has served as the acting head of the EPA since his predecessor, former Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, resigned under a cloud of ethics investigations in July.

Trump made the announcement at the White House while welcoming various administration officials before awarding the Presidential Medal of Freedom to seven people.

Trump introduced Wheeler as the "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."

Even before Pruitt stepped down, conservatives and Republican lawmakers were tipping Wheeler, a longtime Washington insider and lobbyist for the coal industry, to take over for his embattled boss. Wheeler was confirmed as the deputy administrator just three months before Pruitt's departure.

Wheeler is likely to face a charged and highly partisan Senate confirmation hearing. Only three Democrats — Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Joe Donnelly of Indiana — supported Wheeler's confirmation to be the EPA's No. 2 official. Both Manchin and Heitkamp represent states with major fossil fuel interests.

Heitkamp lost her race against Republican Kevin Cramer in the midterm elections, and Donnelly was ousted in his race against Republican Mike Braun.

Though Democrats will likely grill Wheeler when he comes before the Senate, he would face an easier path to confirmation if his hearing takes place next year, when the new Congress with a larger GOP majority in the chamber takes over.

Wheeler has continued to execute Trump's campaign to roll back energy and environmental regulations put in place by President Barack Obama.

Among those deregulation efforts, Wheeler is overseeing the agency's overhaul of rules meant to cut greenhouse gas emissions from power plants and its effort alongside the Transportation Department to cancel plans to increase fuel efficiency standards for autos.