Politics

Acting EPA chief 'puts a premium on transparency'

Scott Pruitt resigned from agency last week

WASHINGTON (CNN) - The acting Environmental Protection Agency chief, Andrew Wheeler, is bringing to the job a "change in tone," the agency said, that could shed greater light on the decisions and actions of EPA leadership.

The EPA's former administrator, Scott Pruitt, broke with his predecessors' common practices of publishing a calendar online and announcing travel and speeches in advance.

On Monday, EPA spokesman John Konkus said Wheeler "puts a premium on transparency."

"As with any change in leadership you can expect a change in approach, and in this case a change in tone as well," Konkus said. "A lot of the specifics in regard to how we will change the approach to calendars, schedules, briefings, etc., will be worked out over the coming days and weeks."

He did not respond to follow-up requests for additional details.

A CNN investigation released shortly before Pruitt's departure last week revealed his aides kept "secret" calendars to conceal controversial entries, such as meetings with industries regulated by EPA, according to a former EPA official.

The investigation found more than two dozen meetings described in emails sent or received by agency officials that were not included on Pruitt's official schedule.

Pruitt's EPA published a watered-down version of his schedule after the fact and did not give the public or reporters advance notice of his public appearances. In several instances, reporters who learned where Pruitt would be speaking were removed from the event or denied access. His calendar entries were released only after the Sierra Club and American Oversight filed public record lawsuits.

Wheeler was confirmed by the Senate in April to be the EPA's deputy administrator, but he was criticized by Democrats for his past ties to energy lobbyists.

Wheeler worked at FaegreBD Consulting and Faegre Baker Daniels law firm before going to the EPA.

His firm's clients included Murray Energy, which calls itself "the largest coal mining company in America."

Prior to his time lobbying, Wheeler served on Capitol Hill as a Republican staff member for the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and as a top aide to Sen. Jim Inhofe, an Oklahoma Republican who's an outspoken climate change skeptic.

Wheeler is originally from Hamilton, Ohio, his biography on the EPA website said. He has a law degree from Washington University in St. Louis and an MBA from George Mason University.


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