Youngkin taps Trump’s ex-EPA head for Virginia cabinet role

Virginia News

Republican gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin gestures as he speaks to supporters during a rally in Chesterfield, Va., Monday, Nov. 1, 2021. Youngkin will face Democrat former Gov. Terry McAuliffe in the November election. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

RICHMOND, Va. (WAVY/AP) — Republican Virginia Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin has tapped a former coal lobbyist and Trump administration Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief to join his cabinet in a role overseeing the state’s environmental policy.

Youngkin’s transition announced Wednesday that Andrew Wheeler is his pick for secretary of natural resources. In addition, he named Michael Rolband as the next Director 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,” said Youngkin. 

The news sparked immediate criticism from Democrats and environmental groups. During Wheeler’s time in the EPA’s top job, the Trump administration ordered a sweeping about-face on Obama-era efforts to fight climate change and moved to ease restrictions on coal-fired power plants.

Cabinet secretaries are subject to approval by the General Assembly, which will be under split party control when it convenes next week.

Wheeler completed his law degree at Washington University in St. Louis, his MBA at George Mason University, and his undergraduate work at Case Western Reserve University in English and Biology.

He began his career during the George H. W. Bush Administration as a Special Assistant in EPA’s Pollution Prevention and Toxics office as a career employee.

Previously, he served as a Principal and the team leader of the Energy and Environment Practice Group at FaegreBD Consulting, as well as Counsel at Faegre Baker Daniels law firm, where he practiced since 2009. 

He also served for six years as the Majority Staff Director and Chief Counsel, as well as the Minority Staff Director, of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.

Mike Rolband, meanwhile, is a graduate of Cornell University, Mike has a B.S. degree in Civil and Environmental Engineering along with an MBA and Master of Engineering Degree.

He founded Wetland Studies and Solutions, Inc. and started Virginia’s first wetland mitigation bank in 1991. He also established the Resource Protection Group, Inc., a 501(c) 3 non-profit that has awarded over $5.4 million in grants to date.

From 2017 to 2020, Cornell University appointed him a Professor of Practice where he taught Wetlands and Stream Restoration. 

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