Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Senate committee strikes Natural Resources nominee

Person speaks into microphone
Steve Helber/AP
Former EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler, who has been nominated by Gov. Youngkin to be the Secretary of Natural and Historic Resources, testifies before the Senate Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources at the Capitol Tuesday, Jan. 25. (Photo: Steve Helber/AP)

On Tuesday, Democrats on the Senate Privileges and Elections Committee struck Secretary of Natural and Historic Resources nominee Andrew Wheeler’s name from a list of appointments made by Gov. Glenn Youngkin.

Sen. Creigh Deeds (D-Bath) says Senate Democrats are concerned about Wheeler’s time as Environmental Protection Agency administrator, citing a letter from former EPA employees requesting his nomination be defeated.

"On this side of the aisle, we don’t have that level of confidence with this nominee,” Deeds said.

Wheeler stirred controversy in Virginia politics before getting a chance to weigh in; when he did address senators for the first time last month, the appointee said his track record was unfairly represented by the press.

He highlighted his federal experience, saying he knew how to best access federal funds for projects with pressing deadlines like the Chesapeake Bay cleanup that’s scheduled to wrap up in three years.

In Tuesday’s meeting, Sen. Bryce Reeves (R-Spotsylvania) agreed, highlighting the bay funding.

It’s clear why Wheeler’s nomination would rankle environmentalists - he has made a career working with those opposed to environmental reforms. Wheeler worked as a coal lobbyist for years after serving as a staffer to James Inhofe - the Oklahoma Senator who famously threw a snowball on the floor of the U.S. Senate in an effort to prove global warming was a hoax. Wheeler also oversaw the rollback of a series of Obama-era emissions controls, including for automakers.

Patrick Larsen is VPM News' environment and energy reporter, and fill-in host.