Youngkin chooses natural resources secretary
Andrew Wheeler was EPA chief under Trump
Gov.-elect Glenn Youngkin announced Wednesday that former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler is his pick for state secretary of natural resources. At the same time, Youngkin chose Michael Rolband as director of the Virginia 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. 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,” Youngkin said in a statement.
Wheeler served in the Trump administration as the 15th administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency from 2019 to 2021. He started at the EPA as a special assistant in its Pollution Prevention and Toxics office during the George H.W. Bush administration and became the agency’s deputy administrator in 2018. Wheeler’s EPA tenure was marked with some controversy, including an attempt to prohibit the EPA from utilizing research studies without publicly available raw data. The proposal was opposed by 69 leading scientific and medical organizations, editors of major scientific journals and a bipartisan group of former EPA administrators. Under his administration, the EPA also diminished mercury cleanup regulations and decided against increasing standards for fine soot pollution.
Environmental groups expressed concern with Wheeler’s selection. “Anyone with this record is simply not the right fit for Virginia,” said Chesapeake Climate Action Network Fund’s Virginia Director Kim Jemaine in a statement. “During his extensive career as a henchman for the coal industry and the Trump administration, Wheeler has made it clear that he is willing to risk the health and safety of Virginians in order to serve the interests of bad actors. We should take this record at face value.”
Previously, Wheeler had been the team leader and a principal of then-FaegreBD Consulting’s energy and environment practice group and counsel at Faegre Baker Daniels law firm. He also co-chaired the firm’s energy and natural resources industry team.
Before joining the firm in 2009, Wheeler was the majority staff director and chief counsel, and minority staff director, of the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. Prior to that, he worked for the Senate Subcommittee on Clean Air, Climate Change, Wetlands and Nuclear Safety for six years. Wheeler is a past chairman of the National Energy Resource Organization and was a Stennis Fellow in the bipartisan leadership development program for senior congressional staff members. Wheeler holds a law degree from Washington University in St. Louis, an MBA from George Mason University and a bachelor’s degree from Case Western Reserve University.
Rolband, who taught a wetlands and stream restoration class at Cornell University from 2017 to 2020, founded Wetland Studies and Solutions Inc., a natural and historic resources consulting firm. He managed about 160 employees, and over almost 30 years, the company provided services and permit approvals for more than 8,000 projects. Rolband also established Resource Protection Group Inc., a nonprofit that has awarded more than $5.4 million in grants to date for wetland and steam restoration research projects. He holds a bachelor’s degree, an MBA and a master’s degree in engineering from Cornell.