EPA Union Leaders Urge Virginia Legislature to Reject Former EPA Administrator’s Nomination to State Agency

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In a letter to the Virginia General Assembly released today, The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) Council 238 called on members of the Virginia Legislature to oppose former Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler’s nomination to Secretary of the state’s Department of Natural and Historic Resources (VDNHR). The union, representing 7,500 EPA workers nationwide, saw the immediate ramifications Wheeler — a former coal lobbyist — had on the agency, its workforce, and its ability to combat climate change, protect human health and the environment and pursue environmental justice.

“There are few who understand more acutely the threat Mr. Wheeler poses to VDNHR and the natural environment that Virginians cherish than those of us who saw first-hand the impact of Mr. Wheeler’s misguided leadership at the EPA. During the Trump Administration, we endured two years of Mr. Wheeler’s efforts to destroy our Agency from within as EPA Administrator. At the helm of EPA, Mr. Wheeler abandoned the protection of natural resources and decimated environmental safeguards that keep our communities, our water, and our air healthy and safe. We believe he will do so again if you confirm his nomination as the leader of VDNHR,” union president Marie Owens Powell writes in the letter. “We survived Mr. Wheeler’s tenure at EPA. Now we have been tasked to reverse Mr. Wheeler’s damaging legacy.”

The letter further details the many ways in which Mr. Wheeler attempted to decimate the EPA, including by weakening dozens of environmental safeguards, undermining the rule-making process, dramatically reducing staffing and creating a hostile work environment. Council 238 warns that if confirmed to the position, Mr. Wheeler would do the same in Virginia.

“We urge you to oppose Mr. Wheeler’s nomination, protect the VDNHR workforce, and prevent four years of dirtier air and water. Stand up for sound science and the enforcement of environmental laws. No one will be more appreciative of your protection of human health and the environment than the people of Virginia,” Owens Powell continues.

Fredericksburg resident and EPA employee, Sharon Bethune, who is a member of AFGE Local 3331, added, “As a Virginia resident and retired EPA employee, I can’t believe I may be faced with confronting Wheeler’s toxic legacy again, only this time at the state level. I started working at EPA at the age of 16 and retired 39 years later. During my tenure, I knew our mission was to protect the environment until Wheeler became our Administrator. Under his administration environmental programs were eliminated and the deregulation of many regulations became the norm. It should be apparent to everyone who cares about the environment that Wheeler’s failed leadership doesn’t need a ‘rewind’ in Virginia. I take pride in living in this beautiful state with our many natural resources and beautiful land. Don’t let him bring down Virginia the same way he brought down the EPA. The Virginia Senate should reject Wheeler because the people of my state want access to clean air and water.”

Full letter linked here.