President Trump on Thursday nominated Andrew Wheeler, a coal lobbyist, to be deputy administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.
Wheeler worked at the EPA early in his career, before joining the staff of Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., who is a prominent skeptic of climate change.
After that, Wheeler spent more than a decade working as a Republican staffer on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. He has led the energy and natural resources practice of the law firm Faegre Baker Daniels since 2009.
Wheeler was a registered lobbyist for Murray Energy, the nation's largest privately owned coal company. Wheeler de-registered himself as a Murray lobbyist in an Aug. 11 filing with Congress. It's not clear if his lobbying status will require a waiver by the EPA.
Trump signed an executive order in January that prevents registered lobbyists from participating in "any particular matter" on which they lobbied in the past two years. But the executive order says the administration can grant a waiver.
Wheeler will get a confirmation hearing before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee in the coming weeks.
Environmental groups were quick to criticize the nomination as another example of the Trump administration installing individuals sympathetic to the energy industry in key positions.
"Halloween apparently came early this October because the nomination of Andrew Wheeler as deputy EPA administrator is absolutely horrifying," said Sierra Club Legislative Director Melinda Pierce. "There actually could not have been a worse choice for this highly influential position that is charged with protecting the health and communities of Americans across the nation."
Industry groups applauded Wheeler's nomination.
"From his work on federal regulatory and legislative issues both on and off Capitol Hill, Andrew knows how important smart, science-based regulations are to the growth of the American economy, creating American jobs, and protecting our environment," said Jack Gerard, CEO of the American Petroleum Institute. "Further, Andrew understands the important role that natural gas and oil play in the daily life of Americans across the nation from powering homes and schools to making life-saving medical devices."