Lobbyist EPA Nominee Confirms He Saw Coal Baron’s ‘Action Plan’ For Trump

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Andrew Wheeler, the nominee to become deputy administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, said Wednesday that he had seen a former client’s plan outlining what President Donald Trump “needed to do in his administration.” 

The client, Bob Murray, is a coal baron and perhaps the most influential voice on coal in President Donald Trump’s ear. He gave and fundraised generously for Trump’s campaign, and claims to have spoken to Trump since the election. He’s also sued HBO’s John Oliver, who called Murray “a geriatric Dr. Evil,” for defamation.

In an interview with PBS’ FrontLine, Murray said that EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt “is the star on the Trump team getting more done probably than any other appointee to date.” 

“I gave Mr. Trump what I called an action plan very early,” Murray continued. “It’s about three-and-a-half pages and — of what he needed to do in his administration.” 

“He’s wiped out page one,” Murray bragged.

According to FrontLine, at the top of Murray’s list was the Trump’s administration’s effort to erase the Clean Power Plan, the cornerstone environmental regulation of the Obama presidency, and a necessary component of meeting the United States’ goals as part of the Paris climate agreement. Both Murray and Pruitt — and many others — sued the Obama administration to stop the rule. Trump in June announced the United States’ withdrawal from the Paris agreement.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) asked Wheeler about Murray’s action plan on Wednesday during a confirmation hearing before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

“I saw it briefly at the beginning of the year,” Wheeler, who said he de-registered as a lobbyist for Murray in August, recalled. 

He said he recalled the plan being “somewhere around” three pages, but provided little detail on its contents.

“I looked at it and handed it back to him,” Wheeler said.

Following the hearing, Whitehouse demanded that Congress see the list of Murray’s priorities. 

“Coal baron Bob Murray, CEO of one of the largest polluters in the country, has given pages of marching orders to President Trump,” the senator said in a statement. “He’s boasted that the administration is already carrying those orders out. Now, unsurprisingly, we know Murray handed his wish list to his lobbyist, who’s before the Committee as President Trump’s nominee to serve as the second in command of the agency charged with regulating Murray’s business.”

Whitehouse added: “Administrator Pruitt and his fellow industry hacks are facilitating the wholesale capture of the EPA. If he is putting Bob Murray’s priorities ahead of Americans’ health and safety, Congress needs to know.” 

Murray has also advocated for a plan from Energy Secretary Rick Perry to force the subsidization of struggling coal-fired power plants, a move that would fatten the Trump supporter’s pockets, but which has faced a wave of opposition from an odd coalition of environmental groups and energy industry competitors, Politico reported Monday.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Matt Shuham is a news writer for TPM. He was previously assistant editor of The National Memo and managing editor of the Harvard Political Review. He is available by email at mshuham@talkingpointsmemo.com and on Twitter @mattshuham.
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