- Governor-elect Youngkin appealed to former EPA chief Wheeler to become Virginia’s secretary of natural resources.
- The move was criticized by Democrats, who criticized his backing of regulations under Trump.
- Wheeler’s appointment requires the approval of the legislature, which will soon take control of the divided party.
Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, elected Wednesday, hired Andrew Wheeler – the former Environmental Protection Agency administrator who helped overturn Obama-era regulations under then-President Donald Trump – to become the Commonwealth Secretary for Natural Resources.
The appointment immediately drew opposition from state Democrats and environmental groups, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
Youngkin – who will succeed limited-term governor Ralph Northam on January 15 – also appointed Michael Rolband, the founder of Wetland Studies and Solutions Inc., to head the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality.
“Andrew and Michael share my vision in finding new ways to innovate and use our natural resources to provide Virginia with a stable, reliable and growing power supply that will meet Virginia’s electricity demands without passing on costs. on the consumer, ”said the governor. elected said in a statement.
Wheeler’s nomination could produce an intense confirmation battle just as Youngkin built the first Republican administration in Virginia since the government era. Bob McDonnell served from 2010 to 2014.
As a member of the governor’s cabinet, the secretary of natural resources must be confirmed by the Virginia General Assembly. While Republicans will control the House of Delegates by a narrow 52-48 margin as of this month, Democrats maintain a very slim 21-19 majority in the state Senate.
Democratic State Senator Scott Surovell of Fairfax County lambasted Youngkin’s selection last week.
“I know he’s new to the Virginia government and all but @GlennYoungkin understand cabinet secretaries need General Assembly approval — right?” he wrote on Twitter. “Some GOP lawmakers should have trouble with this unless they’re not interested in re-election?” “
Walton Shepherd, a senior attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council in Virginia, told The Times-Dispatch that the appointment was “overblown.”
“It’s downright odd to appoint a coal lobbyist inside the DC-Beltway in a state that produces virtually no coal,” he told the newspaper. “Governor-elect Youngkin could speed up progress on clean air, clean water and clean energy, but it’s a clumsy appointment that only guarantees that he won’t do anything.”
Michael Town, executive director of the Virginia League of Conservation Voters, denounced the choice.
“As head of the EPA under former President Trump, Wheeler has only served the interests of repeatedly polluting companies, putting their well-being ahead of our environment and the health of Americans,” a- he said in a statement. “This is by far the most extreme nomination for an environmental position in Virginia history and the absolute worst choice the governor-elect could ever make.”
Surovell expressed hope that members of both parties would crush Wheeler’s nomination.
“I hope that in Virginia there will be a bipartisan opposition to his choice,” he told the newspaper.
Republican State Senator Richard Stuart of Westmoreland County told The Times-Dispatch he didn’t know Wheeler too well but had no doubts about his qualifications from his work on the Natural Resources Transition Committee of the governor-elect.
“He’s incredibly knowledgeable, intelligent and very skilled,” Stuart told the newspaper. “Now, I’ve heard from some of my fellow Democrats and friends across the aisle before. But it seems to me their objection is that he worked for President Trump.
Although candidates can be rejected, this is not a common occurrence in the Commonwealth of Nations.
In 2006, Republicans in the House of Delegates barred Democratic Governor Tim Kaine from appointing former labor leader Daniel LeBlanc as Commonwealth Secretary, largely due to opposition from the then candidate for election. State right to work law. This particular law ensures that employees can choose not to pay union dues, even if they have protections.
In 2014, the GOP-led House of Delegates rejected then-Democratic Governor Terry McAuliffe’s choice of Boyd Marcus for a position on the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board (ABC), despite his Senate approval. of State. Marcus, a well-known Republican strategist in the Commonwealth, worked for McAuliffe’s successful 2013 campaign for governor.
Youngkin said last month he would use executive action to pull Virginia out of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative – a program designed to reduce emissions from power plants – but it’s unclear whether he has the power to make such a decision since state participation was approved. by the Democratic-controlled legislature in 2020.