The Virginia General Assembly should oppose Andrew Wheeler’s nomination as the state’s Secretary of Natural and Historic Resources due to his history of ethical misconduct as EPA Administrator during the Trump administration, according to a letter sent today by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. Given his previous failures at the EPA, Wheeler does not possess the integrity, impartiality and ethical qualifications for the position of Secretary of Natural and Historic Resources.
While serving as EPA Administrator, Wheeler was involved in multiple ethics scandals, including his failure to recuse from EPA matters on which he previously lobbied on behalf of a former client; his role in undermining compliance with the EPA Office of Inspector General process; and his participation in a questionable overseas trip he took in the final days of the Trump administration, resulting in unnecessary travel costs incurred at the taxpayer’s expense.
“Dubious ethical conduct defined Andrew Wheeler’s tenure as EPA Administrator, and the General Assembly should look closely at that record in considering his nomination by Governor Youngkin,” said CREW President Noah Bookbinder. “During his time in the federal government, Wheeler’s actions showed a consistent disdain for ethics rules and norms, which is why we must publicly oppose his nomination for this position.”
Wheeler’s conduct likely violated the Trump administration’s ethics pledge, which barred him from participating in any matter on which he lobbied in the two-year period before joining his appointment to the agency. He refused to cooperate with the EPA Office of Inspector General’s investigation into his chief of staff and backed his employee’s refusal to provide answers to the Inspector General. The EPA OIG ultimately was forced to issue a rare letter to notify Congress of Wheeler’s refusal to cooperate with their investigation.
“Andrew Wheeler used his role as the EPA Administrator to advance his interests and those of his former clients, while sacrificing the integrity of the EPA,” said Bookbinder. “His series of ethically problematic actions casts serious doubts on his ability to serve honorably in future government roles. The Virginia General Assembly should oppose Andrew Wheeler’s nomination.”
In the final days of the Trump administration, as other Cabinet officials resigned in protest following former President Trump’s role in the January 6 insurrection, Wheeler went on a series of taxpayer-funded trips, including stops in Panama, Costa Rica, Ecuador and the Dominican Republic, which he had instructed his aides to plan even though there were no international environmental conferences or events slated in those countries.