Republican Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin is expected to sign legislation Wednesday afternoon to block school boards from imposing mask mandates and require schools to offer in-person instruction five days per week.

Youngkin Picks Trump EPA Administrator For Virginia’s Top Climate Role

Thomas Catenacci 

Republican Virginia Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin chose former Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler to lead his administration’s climate policy.

Wheeler, who former President Donald Trump nominated to head the EPA in 2018, will be the incoming administration’s secretary of natural resources, the governor-elect’s transition team announced on Wednesday. Youngkin also selected professor Michael Rolband to lead the state’s Department of Environmental Quality.

“Virginia needs a diverse energy portfolio in place to fuel our economic growth, continued preservation of our natural resources, and a comprehensive plan to tackle rising sea levels,” Youngkin said in a statement. “Andrew and Michael share my vision in finding new ways to innovate and use our natural resources to provide Virginia with a stable, dependable, and growing power supply that will meet Virginia’s power demands without passing the costs on to the consumer.”

“Together, we will address Virginia’s ongoing environmental, energy, and natural resources challenges,” Youngkin said.

Youngkin said that his administration would prioritize the environmental protection of Chesapeake Bay, establish the Coastal Virginia Resiliency Authority and solve stormwater management problems throughout the state.

Wheeler previously served as both the administrator and deputy administrator of the EPA during the Trump administration, according to the announcement. He also served as executive on the energy and environment team at FaegreBD Consulting, staff director for Senate Environment Committee Republicans and chairman of the National Energy Resource Organization.

After Trump nominated him for deputy administrator of the EPA in 2017, Wheeler was criticized for his work at FaegreBD Consulting where he reportedly lobbied on behalf of the coal industry.

“Halloween apparently came early this October because the nomination of Andrew Wheeler as Deputy EPA Administrator is absolutely horrifying,” Sierra Club Legislative Director Melinda Pierce said at the time, according to Scientific American.

Kate West, the director of the Sierra Club’s Virginia chapter, said Wednesday that Wheeler’s nomination proved Youngkin was “willing to sell out our communities and our clean air and water for corporate profit.”

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