(Headline USA) Republican Virginia Gov.-elect Glenn Youngkin has tapped Andrew Wheeler, the Trump administration’s Environmental Protection Agency chief, to join his cabinet in a role overseeing the state’s environmental policy.
Wheeler is Youngkin’s pick for secretary of natural resources, the transition announced Wednesday.
Youngkin also announced that he has chosen Michael Rolband, the founder of a natural and historic resources consulting firm, as the head of the Department of Environmental Quality, which handles environmental permitting, monitoring and inspections.
“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,” Youngkin said in a statement.
The announcement sparked immediate fury from Democrats and environmental activists, who accused Wheeler of downplaying the urgent threats of climate change
“This is hands down the most extreme nomination for an environmental post in Virginia’s history and the absolute worst pick that the Governor-elect could make,” said Michael Town, executive director of the Virginia League of Conservation Voters.
Cabinet secretaries are subject to approval by the General Assembly, which will be under split party control when it convenes next week. The rejection of nominees is rare but not unprecedented.
The position involves overseeing such policy topics as conservation, climate change and Chesapeake Bay restoration and agencies including the DEQ, the Department of Wildlife Resources and the Department of Historic Resources.
Wheeler worked at the EPA early in his career, in the Pollution Prevention and Toxics office.
He then worked from 1995 to 2009 as a staffer for Republican Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, an outspoken skeptic of man-made climate change, and then for the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, before becoming a lobbyist.
His client list included Murray Energy, one of the nation’s largest coal-mining companies.
He took over the EPA job after President Donald Trump accepted the resignation of embattled administrator Scott Pruitt, who had been dogged by scandals that spawned federal and congressional investigations.
During Wheeler’s time in the EPA’s top job, the Trump administration reversed Obama-era restrictions on coal-fired power plants and other climate-change centered policies.
In November, Youngkin announced that Wheeler would be part of a work group focused on the secretariat helping guide the transition.
While energy policy was not a key focus of last year’s gubernatorial race, Youngkin has promised to be a champion of an all-of-the-above energy strategy, including support for what he has called “clean-burning” fossil fuels.
But any reliance on fossil fuels is likely to roil the radical Left, which has aggressively pushed solar and wind energy to replace the oil, coal and natural gas industries.
During a campaign forum, Youngkin said he was unsure what is responsible for climate change. He went on to say climate change was a challenge facing Virginia that he would work to address.
Also Wednesday, Youngkin announced his pick for secretary of administration, Margaret “Lyn” McDemid, a former longtime employee of the Federal Reserve System, who served there as chief information officer and director of Federal Reserve information technology.
Youngkin will be sworn in Jan. 15.
Adapted from reporting by the Associated Press