by Ari Natter and Jennifer A. Dlouhy
Andrew Wheeler, who has been the EPA’s acting head since the resignation of scandal-plagued Scott Pruitt, will be nominated to lead the agency, President Donald Trump said Friday.
Trump made the remarks Friday at a medal of honor ceremony at the White House where he introduced Wheeler by saying he is going to be made permanent.
"He’s done a fantastic job and I want to congratulate him," Trump said. "Congratulations, Andrew. Great job."
Wheeler, a former coal and energy lobbyist, took over the Environmental Protection Agency after Pruitt’s ouster in July. While Wheeler shares Trump’s agenda of environmental deregulation, he is largely seen as more methodical and deliberate.
The Senate confirmed Wheeler as deputy administrator under Pruitt by a vote of 53-45 last April amid complaints from Democrats and environmentalists about his lobbying work for companies such as coal producer Murray Energy Corp., utility Xcel Energy Inc. and uranium miner Energy Fuels Inc. Wheeler has vowed to stay away from decisions affecting former clients.
Trump would need to nominate Wheeler for the administrator position, though Wheeler could potentially serve as acting secretary for years with virtually no limitations on his power.
His time as acting administrator was initially limited to 210 days under a federal vacancies law. But that clock gets paused if and when Trump nominates Wheeler for the administrator job -- and it can stay that way for two years while a nomination is pending before the Senate.
--With assistance from Jennifer A. Dlouhy and Ryan Beene.
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