It Didn’t End With Scott Pruitt: New EPA Head Raises More Conflicts Of Interest
July 27, 2018
“Since Andrew Wheeler was sworn as EPA's second in command on April 20, the lobbying veteran has had at least three meetings with former clients that may have violated the Trump administration's ethics pledge and other promises he made to steer clear of potential conflicts of interest.”
E&E News: Despite his assurances, Wheeler met with former clients
By Corbin Hiar
Since Andrew Wheeler was sworn as EPA's second in command on April 20, the lobbying veteran has had at least three meetings with former clients that may have violated the Trump administration's ethics pledge and other promises he made to steer clear of potential conflicts of interest.
Wheeler — who became acting administrator after Scott Pruitt's July 6 resignation — has also attended other events that prominently included the head of a company he is currently prohibited from getting involved with, according to an E&E News review of public documents.
The string of ethically questionable encounters stand in stark contrast to the acting EPA chief's claims that he is taking pains to avoid helping his former clients advance their interests.
“If I lobbied on something, I don't think it's appropriate for me to participate,” Wheeler told Bloomberg News on June 27.
But the day before that interview, Wheeler's public calendar shows he participated in a “stakeholder meeting” with Darling Ingredients, a former client. The biodiesel producer paid Faegre Baker Daniels Consulting more than $1.4 million over nine years for Wheeler and the firm's other lobbyists to push changes to the renewable fuel standard as well as renewable diesel and biodiesel tax incentives, according to lobbying disclosures compiled by ProPublica.
Darling — which Faegre identified in disclosures as Darling International, the company's previous name — paid Faegre more for lobbying than any of Wheeler's other lobbying clients, except for coal company Murray Energy Corp.
Which Darling representatives Wheeler met and what they discussed isn't clear from his public calendar. Darling and EPA didn't provide any additional details, and the agency hasn't responded to any of the Freedom of Information Act requests from E&E News for Wheeler's more detailed personal calendar.
But the Irving, Texas-based company has been strongly advocating for EPA to expand the annual amounts of biomass-based diesel that refiners or importers of petroleum-based diesel must use as part of the renewable fuels standard, or RFS. Wheeler will now have the final say on those volumes.
During his time as Pruitt's deputy, Wheeler's public calendar shows he had other so-called stakeholder meetings with agribusiness giant Archer Daniels Midland Co. (ADM), which Wheeler's October 2017 financial disclosure report notes paid his former firm more than $5,000 in the previous year for the current EPA chief's “strategic advice and consulting,” and the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD), a Southern California regulatory agency that paid Faegre at least $600,000 for lobbying between 2010 and 2012.