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US EPA's Wheeler recusal list includes energy efficiency, former energy clients

The second in command of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will not participate in policy issues involving the Energy Star energy efficiency program co-managed by the EPA and the U.S. Department of Energy and will recuse himself from issues involving former clients, including some energy companies.

The bans for Deputy Administrator Andrew Wheeler will last for two years, according to a conflict of interest statement the EPA recently released through its public records request process. They are of note, given that he would become acting administrator if EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt leaves voluntarily or is forced to resign over a number alleged scandals. Pruitt is facing more than a dozen federal congressional and EPA inspector general investigations into his spending on security and first-class travel, his use of staffers for personal errands, a cheap condo rental from the wife of a lobbyist and other actions.

Wheeler, whom the U.S. Senate confirmed to his position in April, was previously a principal at Faegre Baker Daniels Consulting, where he co-led the firm's energy and natural resources practice. Before that, he served as majority staff director, minority staff director and chief counsel at the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, including under former Chairman U.S. Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla.

The recusal statement said Wheeler will not participate in issues that he lobbied on that involve the EPA, including Energy Star, or other agencies, such as DOE's possible use of Federal Power Act Section 202(c) to order a power plant to operate for emergency reliability purposes. The DOE is reportedly considering the use of that law to help prop up aging or financially struggling nuclear and coal-fired generation. Energy Star is a program that certifies buildings and products that meet certain energy efficiency standards.

Clients on Wheeler's recusal list are Xcel Energy Inc., Murray Energy Corp., Sargento Foods Inc., Underwriters Laboratories Inc., Energy Fuels Resources (USA) Inc., Growth Energy and Martin Farms. Wheeler said he will not participate personally or substantially in any matters involving the National Energy Resources Organization unless the ethics office authorizes otherwise. Wheeler chaired NERO in 2014 and 2015. The nonprofit focuses on providing networking opportunities in the Washington, D.C., area for energy companies and those in the energy field.