Gov.-elect Glenn Youngkin (R) announced Wednesday that he nominated Andrew Wheeler, former Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator in the Trump administration, to be Virginia’s next secretary of natural resources.
Youngkin, who will be sworn in as Virginia governor next week, announced his choice of Wheeler as well as his choice for director of environmental quality, Michael Rolband, saying in a statement that the pair share his environmental “vision.”
Virginia needs a diverse energy portfolio in place to fuel our economic growth, continued preservation of our natural resources, and a comprehensive plan to tackle rising sea levels. Andrew and Michael share my vision in finding new ways to innovate and use our natural resources to provide Virginia with a stable, dependable, and growing power supply that will meet Virginia’s power demands without passing the costs on to the consumer.
Prior to serving as EPA administrator, Wheeler worked as a coal lobbyist while former President Barack Obama was in office and then deputy EPA administrator under former President Donald Trump. While working in the White House in 2019, Wheeler spoke to Breitbart News about his opposition to Democrats’ Green New Deal, the sweeping climate proposal that sought to aggressively reduce carbon emissions, saying he believed advocates of the proposal were against American “energy domination.”
Youngkin, a political newcomer who formerly worked in private equity for 25 years, said he plans to work with both Wheeler and Rolband to address Virginia’s “ongoing environmental, energy, and natural resources challenges, including protecting the Chesapeake Bay, fully funding our best management practices, solving longstanding stormwater management issues, and establishing a Coastal Virginia Resiliency Authority.”
Youngkin has gradually been announcing his cabinet nominees over the past few weeks, but Virginia Democrats were more publicly disapproving of Wheeler than they have been with the Virginia Republican’s other administration choices.
House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn (D-Fairfax) issued a statement on Wednesday suggesting that by choosing Wheeler, Youngkin is “retreating in our efforts to preserve our natural resources and make our Commonwealth more sustainable.”
The liberal news blog Blue Virginia called Wheeler “Youngkin’s Worst Cabinet Pick Yet,” and state Sen. Scott Surovell (D-Fairfax) chided Youngkin, highlighting that the Virginia General Assembly must still approve Youngkin’s nominees. The Assembly majorities are split, with Democrats narrowly controlling the Senate 21–19 and Republicans with a slight edge in the House 52–48.