Democrats’ joy was short lived on Thursday. After President Trump announced that Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt was resigning after an intense political pressure campaign, he tweeted that Deputy Andrew Wheeler would take on the role.
Wheeler shares many of the Pruitt’s policy views and was confirmed as deputy in April with only three Democratic votes. As with Pruitt, many on the Left find his views on climate change and environmental regulation disheartening. Similar to how many on the Left mourned Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement, environmental agencies and liberal commentators took to Twitter to express their dread of the new administrator of the EPA.
The Natural Resources and Defense Council (NRDC), an environmental advocacy group, tweeted that Wheeler was just as nefarious and ill informed as Pruitt, but much more capable. The headline of the article reads “Who is Andrew Wheeler (And Why You Should Be Afraid Of Him).”
Wheeler is Pruitt’s “ideological twin,” just with more “political savvy” according to the article.
Imagine an EPA administrator with all the bad ideas and nefarious industry connections of Scott Pruitt—but with far more sophistication. America, meet Andrew Wheeler. https://t.co/2R0R4Ff27P
— NRDC (@NRDC) April 16, 2018
Rep. Donald McEachin tweeted an Environmental Defense Fund article. The article warns that those who breathed a sigh of relief at Pruitt’s departure should hold their breath for Wheeler’s upcoming tenure. The article repeats similar refrains: Wheeler is a carbon copy of Pruitt, just with more Washington connections.
Having @EPAScottPruitt at the helm of the @EPA was already a bad decision. Confirming coal-industry lobbyist, Andrew Wheeler, as Pruitt’s deputy is adding another fox to the hen house. https://t.co/tXydvQgi5y
— Rep. Donald McEachin (@RepMcEachin) April 12, 2018
The well-known Sierra Club tweeted its own ominous profile of Wheeler, accusing him of not “technically” breaking ethics standards during his nomination but still breaking them in spirit.
— Sierra Club (@SierraClub) June 26, 2018
Salon reporter Shira Tarlo tweeted out the NRDC’s article, calling Wheeler a “coal lover” who has worked for a “fierce climate change denier.”
Andrew Wheeler, Scott Pruitt's replacement to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, could be very bad. He's a coal lover who has worked as a legislative aide to a fierce Capitol Hill climate denier. https://t.co/kcZte14KUi
— Shira Tarlo (@shiratarlo) July 5, 2018
The mother who went viral for confronting Pruitt at a restaurant with her toddler in her arms said she felt “unrestrained glee” after Pruitt’s resignation that was quickly put out by Wheeler’s replacement.
Mother who confronted Scott Pruitt in restaurant says she initially felt "unrestrained glee,” about his resignation but then realized former coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler would be acting EPA administrator, “so clearly the agenda is not going to be getting any better” pic.twitter.com/xeK4xceS6l
— The Lead CNN (@TheLeadCNN) July 5, 2018
David Roberts, a reporter for Vox covering environmental issues, says Pruitt’s resignation is “no happy ending” and that the only way there will be one is if someone unseats Trump in 2020. Wheeler’s policy will be as “horrific” as Pruitt’s was.
Before everyone gets excited about Pruitt, remember we're going to get all the same horrific policy under Andrew Wheeler, without any of the comic, attention-drawing personal corruption. There's no happy ending to this story — until 2020, maybe.
— David Roberts (@drvox) July 5, 2018
MSNBC commentator Chris Hayes implied that Wheeler would be as bad for the environment’s health as tobacco is for the human body.
Andrew Wheeler as the head of EPA is the equivalent of a tobacco lobbyist heading up HHS.
— Chris Hayes (@chrislhayes) July 5, 2018
AJ+, a media division of Al-Jazeera, broke the news of Wheeler’s new gig with a GIF of Ice Cube looking bewildered and irritated.
The new acting head of the Environmental Protection Agency is Andrew Wheeler, an ex-coal lobbyist. pic.twitter.com/CiZYimb5rQ
— AJ+ (@ajplus) July 6, 2018
Alexander Kaufman of the Huffington Post compared the transition to “switching deck chairs on the environmental Titanic.”
Andrew Wheeler will carry out Scott Pruitt's agenda — plus greater competence, minus the scandals and the scrutiny they invited.
As one person put it to me: "This is like rearranging deck chairs on the environmental Titanic."
my latest: https://t.co/dJVqKM4q8v
— Alexander Kaufman (@AlexCKaufman) July 5, 2018
The conclusion: Wheeler has all of the same environmental positions as Pruitt, but he’s much smarter at navigating Beltway politics. This is reason to be terrified.
It’s as if they expect a Republican president to appoint people who will carry out Democratic policies, and believe that Republican conservation policies are not merely strategies that some people think are more effective of accomplishing mutual goals, but evilly intended earth destruction plans. That’s a pretty offensive, mean-spirited assumption, but apparently it’s widespread on one side of the political aisle.