By David Arkush, Public Citizen
Today Axios reports that Andrew Wheeler, coal lobbyist and former staffer to Sen. James “Snowball” Inhofe, is no longer the front-runner for the No. 2 spot at EPA. Whew, we sure dodged a bullet there. The new leading candidate is not a coal lobbyist but—wait for it — a coal lawyer, Jeffrey R. Holmstead. He works for Bracewell LLP, a lobbying and legal firm notorious for representing some of the worst fossil-fuel polluters.
If he joins the Trump-Pruitt EPA, Holmstead will ice his D.C.-swamp-creature employment pattern: During Democratic presidential administrations, rake in millions representing dirty-energy companies that poison Americans. In Republican administrations, spin through the revolving door to EPA, and block the agency from protecting people from your former — and likely future — clients.
Low-lights of Holmstead’s career include stalling rules against mercury pollution for several years while working in the George W. Bush EPA, suing on behalf of the coal industry to block the Obama EPA’s first-ever rules curbing carbon pollution from existing power plants, and (a personal hobbyhorse of mine) repeatedly spewing the false industry claim that sound climate change policy will raise electricity costs for consumers and businesses. Here’s Holmstead suggesting to a Greenpeace activist that doing what’s necessary to fight climate change would mean “shutting down all the industries in the United States.”
(There’s one more candidate in the mix for the EPA job, and it’s another revolving-door swamper: Paul Noe, a lobbyist for the paper industry and longstanding opponent of public safeguards against corporate pollution and other abuses. We can take a deeper dive into his record if it looks like the administration might move on him instead of Holmstead.)
Axios reports, incredibly, that Holmstead would “represent a moderating tilt” at EPA and is “considered more moderate” than “many elected Republicans today” and “some top advisers in EPA.” Only in Trump’s America.
If you ask me, the main way Holmstead makes sense is that he’s a coal-industry toady to balance out EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s well-known allegiance to the oil and gas industry. The coal barons probably complained to Trump that they want their own guy at the top of the EPA too. A Pruitt-Holmstead EPA could adopt the tagline Leave no fossil fuel behind. Oh, and there’s the technicality that Trump might be able to avoid the l-word — lobbyist — being attached to his name.
Axios said Holmstead couldn’t be reached for comment because he’s on a long rafting trip in the Grand Canyon. We might want to treat that as a warning from someone who really understands the Trump environmental agenda: Get your rafting trip in before Trump’s Department of the Interior allows uranium mining nearby and the river turns radioactive.