RICHMOND, Virginia (WRIC) – Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin’s pick for Virginia’s next natural resources secretary is Andrew Wheeler, a former coal lobbyist who served as head of the Environmental Protection Agency under President Donald Trump.
Youngkin (right) announced Wheeler as his pick on Wednesday, just over a week before he will be sworn in as Virginia’s next governor on January 15. He also appointed Michael Roelband, founder of consulting firm Wetland Studies and Solutions, Inc. Environmental Quality Manager.
“Virginia needs a diverse array of energy to fuel our economic growth, the continued conservation of our natural resources, and a comprehensive plan to address rising sea levels,” Youngkin said in a statement. “Andrew and Michael share my vision of finding new ways to innovate and use our natural resources to provide Virginia with a stable, reliable, and growing source of energy that meets Virginia’s energy demands without charging the consumer.”
The announcement comes as Yongkin continues to outline his choices to fill his cabinet. But Wheeler’s selection for the position of natural resources secretary sparked an uproar from environmental groups and state Democrats.
“This is the most extreme nomination for environmental office in Virginia’s history and the worst choice ever for a governor-elect,” Michael Towne, executive director of the Virginia Consortium of Voters, wrote in a statement. “While we were optimistic that we might be able to find common ground with the new administration moving forward, this nomination makes clear that environmental protection is under attack in Virginia, and we are willing to fight to defend it.”
The General Assembly will need to confirm Wheeler and Youngkin’s other Cabinet picks during the 2022 legislative session, which begins on January 12. delegates at the meeting.
While it may be unlikely, a Democratic senator questioned whether any GOP lawmakers would oppose Wheeler as Secretary of Natural Resources.
State Senator Scott Soroville (D-Fairfax) Tweet Wednesday After reports of Wheeler’s appointment first surfaced on Wednesday morning:
“I know he’s new to the Virginia government and everything else Tweet embed Does he understand that Cabinet Secretaries need the approval of the General Assembly – right? Should some GOP lawmakers have trouble with this unless they’re interested in getting reelected? “
The governor-elect has already said he will seek to withdraw Virginia from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a multistate program aimed at reducing carbon pollution, but some have questioned whether he can follow through with an executive order.
Yongkin, who has pledged to reduce regulations in Commonwealth countries, has criticized the program, claiming that it places an undue burden on businesses and taxpayers.
This story is developing. Check again for updates.