New Investigation By Salon Finds at Least Three Proposed or Finalized EPA Rules Benefit Former Lobbying Clients of EPA Administrator
“Andrew Wheeler is overseeing policies that damage the air we breathe and water we drink while his associates benefit,” said Accountable.US Spokesperson Chris Saeger. “This is a clear abuse of his taxpayer-funded position and ethics agreement.”
In particular, Wheeler’s former client Xcel Energy is one of the main beneficiaries of EPA’s recent coal ash rules rollback, former client Murray Energy scored a “victory” after the EPA came out with a new method to calculate the costs and benefits of curbing mercury pollution, and former client Growth Energy is one of just a very small handful of companies that supports the proposed conclusions of EPA’s Anti-Backsliding study.
According to Wheeler’s ethics agreement, he was banned from participating in particular matters that in which is former clients had an interest until April 28, 2020.
More Background on Wheeler’s Clients and The Rules They Pushed For:
Xcel Energy and Coal Ash Rules Rollback
EPA recently finalized a rule that would extend the closure initiation deadlines of unlined coal ash ponds. Coal ash is a dangerous pollutant that contains arsenic, boron, lead and mercury, which are known carcinogens and damage organs.
The Utility Solid Waste Activities Group (USWAG) applauded the proposed changes. Relaxing coal ash rules has been a big priority for USWAG– the trade group petitioned then-EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to roll back coal ash storage regulations back in 2017.
Xcel Energy is a member of USWAG, and has also supported EPA’s proposed coal ash rule. Andrew Wheeler lobbied for Xcel Energy from 2013- 2016, and had promised to recuse himself from matters related to Xcel Energy until April 28, 2020.
Murray Energy and Mercury Regulations Rollback (MATS)
In April 2020, Wheeler’s EPA undermined mercury regulations by creating a new method of calculating the costs and benefits of curbing mercury pollution. This followed a request by Robert “Bob” Murray, who has hosted major fundraisers for Trump, who asked the EPA to rescind the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) in 2019.
In 2017, Murray Energy asked the EPA to suspend implementation of the mercury standards, but was unsuccessful in getting mercury regulations rolled back until Wheeler became administrator. The EPA’s mercury rollback in April was described as a “particular victory” for Robert Murray.
Before starting at EPA, Wheeler lobbied on behalf of Murray Energy from 2009 to 2017. Wheeler had allegedly promised to recuse himself from matters related to Murray Energy until April 28, 2020.
Growth Energy and Anti-Backsliding Study Determination
In May 2020, after the EPA completed the Anti-Backsliding study required by RFS regulations in the Clean Air Act, the EPA proposed that no additional fuel regulations are necessary to mitigate negative air quality impacts of required renewable fuel volumes.
Growth Energy was one of Andrew Wheeler’s former clients before joined EPA—he provided the company with “strategic advice and counseling.” Wheeler promised to recuse himself from matters related to Growth Energy until April 28, 2020.