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Andrew Wheeler, EPA acting administrator. Screenshot via U.S. Senate video

The departure of scandal-plagued Scott Pruitt as head of the Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday led President Trump to tap the agency’s second-in-command, Andrew Wheeler, to take over as acting administrator.

The big picture: Amid backlash and numerous federal and congressional inquiries over Pruitt’s controversial spending habits, management decisions and ethics practices, many have speculated that Wheeler would take over should Pruitt resign or fired. But just last week, he told the told the Washington Examiner he had no interest in taking Pruitt’s job. 

“I could have put my hat in the ring for the administrator. I wasn’t interested in that. I am still not interested in that. I am the deputy administrator and that is what I am focused on doing.”
— Wheeler told the Examiner
Key details:
  • Wheeler, like his predecessor, has been skeptical over the argument that the burning of fossil fuels is the primary cause of global warming.
  • Trump tapped him last October for the number two slot at the agency, and the Senate confirmed him in April by a 53-to-45 vote.
  • His confirmation came after he faced scrutiny over his past lobbying work with Murray Energy, the country's largest privately-owned coal company that sued the EPA on multiple occasions. The coal giant had vigorously fought the Obama administration’s attempts to reduce carbon emissions and bolster environmental and public health regulations.
Wheeler's history:
  • At Murray Energy, Wheeler lobbied the Department of Energy to provide government subsidies for coal plants, per CNN. But the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission struck down the proposal earlier this year sought by Energy Secretary Rick Perry.
  • A Uranium Mining Company's lobbying team led by Wheeler had successfully persuaded the Trump administration to cut the size of the fiercely contested Bears Ears National Monument in Utah.
  • Wheeler worked as a top aide for Sen. Jim Inhofe, a committee member and former chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee from 1995 to 2009.
  • He supported efforts to exempt industrial plants from heightened pollution controls in the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and fought to shield polluters from liability for harm caused by the release of toxic chemicals.
  • Wheeler had also worked to defeat climate-related proposed bills before lawmakers.

Go deeper: How things will (and won’t) change at EPA with Scott Pruitt gone

Go deeper

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Top Pentagon officials contradict Biden on Afghanistan advice

Photo: Carolone Brehman/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

Top military leaders confirmed in a Senate hearing Tuesday they recommended earlier this year that the U.S. keep 2,500 troops in Afghanistan, and that they believed withdrawing those forces would lead to the collapse of the Afghan military.

Why it matters: Biden denied last month that his top military advisers wanted troops to remain in Afghanistan, telling ABC's George Stephanopoulos: "No one said that to me that I can recall."

Poll: Latinas more likely to open their own businesses, despite pandemic setbacks

Janie Isidoro, owner of My Corazon, a Chicano business in downtown Hanford, Calif. Photo: Al Seib/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Latinas in the U.S. are more likely to own, or plan to open, their own businesses than non-Hispanic women, despite the pandemic’s disproportionate burden, a recent poll found.

Why it matters: The survey, conducted by Telemundo, the Latino Victory Foundation and Hispanics Organized for Political Equality, suggests Latinas can be a driver of growth for the U.S. even though they have faced greater COVID-19-related setbacks.

Warren opposes Fed chair Powell's renomination, calls him a "dangerous man"

Sen. Elizabeth Warren speaks during a hearing before Senate Armed Services Committee on Sept. 28. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) questioned Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell's record on financial regulation during a hearing Tuesday, calling him a "dangerous man" and saying that she would not support his renomination for a second term.

Driving the news: While the Fed chair’s term expires in early 2022, President Biden is expected to make a decision this fall on whether to reappoint Powell or nominate another candidate.