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Top coal industry lobbyist Andrew Wheeler is likely to be tapped as the No. 2. official at the Environmental Protection Agency, according to two people familiar with the decision-making process.

The expected appointment for deputy EPA administrator is a turnaround from last month when the White House was poised to tap Jeff Holmstead, a former top EPA official under President George W. Bush. Holmstead is considered to be a more moderate conservative compared to Wheeler and other officials inside the Trump administration.

Why it matters: Wheeler's likely nomination shows the influence of conservatives, both inside and outside the administration, over environmental and energy policy. Wheeler has been more outspoken in questioning the science behind climate change than Holmstead.

Wheeler's bio: Wheeler, now a principal at firm Faegre Baker Daniels Consulting, is a top lobbyist for Murray Energy, the coal mining company whose CEO, Bob Murray, is close with President Trump. Wheeler has steadily lobbied on behalf of the private coal producer since at least 2009, according to lobbying disclosure data. His most recent filing for the company was posted July 20, according to the federal disclosure website.

Wheeler has worked on Capitol Hill, including for Sen. James Inhofe (R., Okla.), when he was a leader on the environment committee. Many top officials at EPA and the White House have worked for Inhofe, who in turn has a long-standing relationship with EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. Pruitt was attorney general of Oklahoma before getting the EPA job.

For the record: Reached by email, Wheeler had no comment. Spokespeople for the EPA and White House did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

What's next: No final decision has been made on the nomination, which would require Senate confirmation and is certain to face intense pushback from Democrats.

Go deeper

47 mins ago - World

At least 2 dead after Tonga volcano eruption and tsunami

A satellite image of the explosive eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai volcano on Saturday. Photo: UNICEF/NOAA

At least two people are confirmed to have died in Tonga following the undersea volcanic eruption that sent tsunami waves toward the island nation and across the Pacific over the weekend, officials said Monday.

The big picture: Officials reported major damage along the western coast of the main island of Tongatapu, where the capital, Nuku'alofa, was covered in ash and dust, including on the runway of the airport. A New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson told Axios over the phone that two people had been confirmed to have died in the disaster.

Airlines call for Biden admin's "immediate intervention" in 5G deployment

Photo: Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The CEOs of leading U.S. air cargo and passenger carriers on Monday warned the Biden administration there could be "catastrophic disruption" after AT&T and Verizon deploy a new 5G service this week.

Driving the news: They said in a letter to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and other top federal officials ahead of the C-Band 5G service's deployment Wednesday that "the nation's commerce will grind to a halt" and "could potentially strand tens of thousands of Americans overseas."

Updated 5 hours ago - Energy & Environment

Thousands without power as "hazardous" winter storm lashes East Coast

Satellite imagery of the Northeastern U.S. taken by NOAA on Jan. 17. Photo: NOAA

A major winter storm lashed much of the East Coast Sunday and Monday, causing widespread power outages and disrupting travel over the holiday weekend.

The latest: Authorities in North Carolina confirmed that two people died in a car crash and that they responded 600 vehicle accidents during the storm on Sunday, per the Washington Post.