While the media was focused on administrator Scott Pruitt and his many scandals at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), an important story about the agency's new deputy administrator slipped quietly by.
One of Wheeler's biggest clients is Murray Energy Corporation, the largest coal mining company in America. Since Wheeler began lobbying for the company, it has paid millions in fines and penalties for contaminating waterways and other health violations.
The CEO of this company, Robert E. Murray, is a proud climate denier and a fierce opponent of the Obama administration's environmental regulations.
The coal baron also has a close, working relationship with the Trump administration.
So close, in fact, that last year, Murray sent Vice President Mike Pence a pro-coal "action plan" that included suggestions like: repeal the Clean Power Plan, withdraw from the Paris Accord, eliminate federal tax credits for renewable energy, and cut the EPA's workforce in half.
One year in, the Trump administration has already ticked off the majority of Murray's wish list.
Now, as a lobbyist for Murray's company, Wheeler is the second in command at the EPA.
"It's very alarming and distressing," Mary Anne Hitt, a campaign director at the Sierra Club, told The Huffington Post.
"He is right up there with the list of the most extreme people that Trump has nominated for any agency."
Wheeler is not only a successful coal lobbyist, he is also vice president of the Washington Coal Club, an organization dedicated to preserving the future of coal, and he is Senator Jim Inhofe's legislative aide.
If that name does't ring a bell, Inhofe is the Senator who brought a snowball into Congress to prove that global warming is a liberal conspiracy.
Just like Murray and Inhofe, Wheeler's understanding of climate science is seriously limited.
In 2010, Wheeler accused the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) of blurring "the lines between science and advocacy" and behaving "more as a political body than a scientific body."
He further argued that the EPA should stop "exclusively relying upon the IPCC" for its findings. The remarks have now been quietly taken off of his website.
"I believe that man has an impact on the climate, but what's not completely understood is what the impact is," Wheeler said in his Congressional hearing about the government's most recent climate report.
And just like that, Wheeler freely admitted to Congress that he does not agree with the 97 percent of active climate scientists that accept the science behind human-caused climate change.
But apparently that didn't bother Republican Senators - many of whom Wheeler has directly raised money for. Last week, the Republican-controlled Senate approved Wheeler's nomination.
All of this means that if Pruitt steps down or is fired from the EPA, the agency will have traded in a climate-denying industry chum for a climate-denying industry lobbyist.
Talk about putting a fox in charge of the hen house.
This article was originally published by Science As Fact.
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