Jeff Holmstead, an EPA assistant administrator under George W. Bush who is now an energy lawyer at the law firm Bracewell, told TIME in an email that Wheeler "may actually be more effective than Pruitt" thanks to his experience in Washington and starting off fresh at the agency.
"I am the deputy administrator", Wheeler said.
Pruitt made no mention of the various ethics complaints in his resignation letter, instead praising Trump for having "blessed me personally and enabled me to advance your agenda beyond what anyone anticipated". Mr. Pruitt was bad for the environment and bad for wildlife.
The explanation for Mr. Pruitt's curious longevity in office, seemingly impervious to widespread media coverage of his ethical lapses, could be seen in an over-the-top resignation letter in which he described Mr. Trump's presidency as nothing short of "God's providence". As Pruitt's controversies grew in April, the Union on Concerned Scientists said it would have serious concerns if Wheeler were made EPA administrator. Pruitt is a public official who absolutely should be held accountable for his conduct; no sympathy is warranted.
For months he had ranked as a personal confidant and influential policy adviser to the president, commiserating with Trump over negative stories and indiscreet aides while praising the commander-in-chief for his intelligence and political acumen.
With Trump in the White House and embattled Scott Pruitt gone from his job as Environmental Protection Agency Administrator, a lobbyist that Cleveland-based Murray Energy paid millions of dollars to fight those regulations - Andrew Wheeler - is now the agency's acting director.
But as summer unfolded, the amount of pressure on Pruitt began to near its breaking point as former staffers came forward to air their concerns and accusations about the EPA chief. So, who is Andrew Wheeler?
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Fred Krupp, president of the Environmental Defense Fund, said the EPA will continue to put the health of American families in jeopardy under Wheeler's leadership.
"He came to me and he said, 'I have such great confidence in the administration".
And then Committee Chairman John Barrasso (R-WY.), who ad agreed to have Pruitt appear before his committee in August, weighed in. Wheeler was first rumored to be chosen for the EPA in March 2017. The watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington-no fan of Pruitt-offered a one-word statement: "Good".
The conclusion: Wheeler has all of the same environmental positions as Pruitt, but he's much smarter at navigating Beltway politics.
His job had been in jeopardy since it emerged he had leased a property previous year that was co-owned by the wife of a veteran fossil fuels lobbyist, whose firm had sought regulatory rollbacks from the EPA.
"It has become increasingly challenging for the EPA to carry out its mission with the administrator under investigation", said Barrasso, who is from Wyoming.