Nominee Wheeler lobbied for pro-biofuels org

Source: Kevin Bogardus, E&E News reporter • Posted: Friday, October 20, 2017

President Trump’s pick for deputy chief at U.S. EPA provided advice to several clients, including a prominent pro-biofuels business group, new documents show.

Andrew Wheeler, nominated to be deputy EPA administrator, provided “strategic advice and counseling” to Growth Energy, a trade association that represents ethanol producers, according to his financial disclosure report.

Wheeler, a former aide to Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), has been working since 2009 as a principal with Faegre Baker Daniels Consulting. He did not register to lobby for Growth Energy and some other clients listed on his disclosure form, such as Archer Daniels Midland Co., General Mills Inc. and International Paper Co.

Wheeler’s disclosure of his work on behalf of Growth Energy comes during a sensitive juncture for the agency. EPA has hinted it may lower biofuel volumes required under the renewable fuel standard, which has sparked a backlash from ethanol supporters, including Growth Energy.

The kerfuffle has led to farm state Republican senators threatening to withhold support for Bill Wehrum, Trump’s nominee for EPA air chief, resulting in a postponed committee vote this week (see related story).

Wheeler also disclosed registered lobbying work on behalf of several energy clients, including Bear Head LNG Corp., Xcel Energy Inc. and coal giant Murray Energy Corp., run by vocal Trump backer Bob Murray.

His firm disclosed in amended lobbying records released this August that Wheeler was no longer acting as a lobbyist for his clients (E&E Daily, Oct. 6).

The nominee is forgoing a substantial amount of money by seeking to join EPA. Wheeler’s Faegre Baker Daniels salary and bonus was $741,074, according to his financial disclosure form.

He signed an ethics agreement as part of his confirmation process. Wheeler affirmed that if confirmed he understands he will be required to sign the president’s ethics pledge, which limits the work lobbyists can do when they join the administration.

Some appointees — like Erik Baptist, senior deputy general counsel at EPA — have secured waivers to the pledge (E&E News PM, Oct. 3).

Under the agreement, Wheeler said he will not participate in matters involving Faegre Baker Daniels or its clients for his first year at EPA. In addition, he will not involve himself in matters dealing with his own former clients for a year after he last provided them with service unless he is authorized to participate.