February 8, 2022
Today, Senate Democrats formally rejected Governor Youngkin’s selection for the position of Secretary of Natural and Historic Resources Andrew Wheeler. Despite Senate Republicans’ objections, the committee amendment to SJ84 was agreed to on a party-line vote.
Majority Leader Dick Saslaw and Caucus Chair Mamie Locke said: “Good government requires good stewardship of Virginia’s resources, including our natural resources. But Mr. Wheeler’s track record on the environment and energy indicates he will unravel the progress we have achieved to address climate change, mitigate the effects of sea level rise, and protect the natural beauty of our Commonwealth. After hearing grave concerns from our communities, stakeholders, and organizations—as well as Mr. Wheeler’s former colleagues at the EPA—we cannot in good conscience confirm such an alarming choice.”
Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee Chair Chap Petersen said: “Mr. Wheeler, while professional and knowledgeable in his presentation in the Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources Committee on January 25, 2022, would have been difficult to confirm for the position of Secretary of Natural and Historic Resources given his track record as Director of the federal Environmental Protection Agency, his history as a lobbyist on behalf of the fossil fuel industry, and his stated objective of approaching the position in Virginia in a similar manner to which he approached his duties at the EPA.
“Mr. Wheeler, in his time at the EPA, undertook more than 50 significant rollbacks of environmental protections, including weakening national air quality standards, defunding Chesapeake Bay cleanup efforts, and silencing EPA scientists. While his actions may have been consistent with the political charge given by President Trump, they are not consistent with the laws and goals of the Commonwealth he would be charged with implementing.”
Privileges and Elections Committee Chair Adam Ebbin said: “The Secretary of Natural Resources is charged more than any other official with that tremendous responsibility. So to me, the fundamental question is will Andrew Wheeler protect our atmosphere, lands, and waters from pollution, impairment, and destruction?
“I do not believe he will. Neither do Mr. Wheeler’s former colleagues, nor the thousands of Virginians who have flooded our offices with their concerns, nor the entire environmental community. We cannot ignore Mr. Wheeler’s background and the well-founded opposition of so many.”