After electing Glenn Youngkin, Virginia can look forward to having coal lobbyist, Andrew Wheeler, leading their Department of Natural Resources.
Huffington Post Capitol reporter Jen Bendery tweeted about the news along with a series of articles pointing to some of the most egregious things that Wheeler has ever said or done.
While serving as the acting administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency under former President Donald Trump, Wheeler liked racist images of former President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama on Facebook and retweeted a Pizzagate conspiracy theorist.
Wheeler also told his Senate confirmation hearing that the threat of climate change wasn't really that big of a deal. In fact, he claimed that the natural disasters that will be brought about by climate change are about 50 to 75 years in the future. That could clash with the overwhelming majority (three quarters) of Virginians who indicated in a 2021 survey that the Assembly should "increase investments in conservation efforts to protect land, water, and wildlife across the commonwealth."
Coal also isn't the predominant power industry in Virginia by a longshot. In fact, less than 4 percent of Virginia's power comes from coal. As of 2020 just 2,094 people in Virginia. To put that in context, the commonwealth estimates they'll reach over 126,000 people working as registered nurses this year.
But perhaps the most egregious piece of Wheeler's background is that he sparked an ethics probe after being in federal office for less than a month.
Former administrator Scott Pruitt was forced to resign after a series of scandals in the first years of the Trump administration. Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA) explained that Wheeler was accused of meeting with three of his former coal clients after being sworn into his position.
The meetings happened in 2018, one day before Wheeler told Bloomberg News he didn’t "think it’s appropriate for me to participate: in meetings with clients for whom he’d lobbied.
HuffPo reported that Wheeler took part in a “stakeholder meeting” with biodiesel producer Darling Ingredients and his second-largest lobbying client, the coal giant, Murray Energy.