By TYLER ARNOLD
THE CENTER SQUARE
(The Center Square) – Virginia Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin, who will assume the position Saturday, announced his nominees for several secretary positions, one of which is likely to receive some pushback in the Senate.
Although Mr. Youngkin will be sworn in as governor, his cabinet secretaries will need to be approved by the General Assembly. Lawmakers rarely block secretary nominees, but several Senate Democrats have already voiced their objection to Mr. Youngkin nominating Andrew Wheeler for Secretary of Natural Resources. Mr. Wheeler served as the acting administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency under President Donald Trump from July 2018 until January 2021.
Republicans hold narrow control of the House of Delegates, but Democrats still maintain a two-seat majority in the Senate. To successfully block Mr. Wheeler, Democrats would likely need every party member to vote against his confirmation because Lt. Gov.-elect Winsome Sears will have the tie-breaking vote. Some Democrats, including Sen. Scott Surovell, D-Mount Vernon, and Sen. Joe Morrissey, D-Richmond, have announced their plans to vote against his confirmation.
During his Senate confirmation to the EPA, Mr. Wheeler said he believes that human actions contribute to climate change, but said no one completely understands what the specific impact is. As the EPA administrator, he generally supported lower regulations. He did not approve any new rules on air pollution or carbon emissions and he loosened mercury regulations he believed to be unnecessary. During the COVID-19 pandemic, he declined to fine companies for certain violations if the company could show the violations were caused by the pandemic.
Mr. Wheeler, a former coal lobbyist, generally has support from conservatives and business advocates for his low-regulation approach, but opposition from liberals and environmentalists for the same reason.
In addition to nominating Mr. Wheeler, Mr. Youngkin will also nominate Michael Rolband to be the next Director of Environmental Quality, which has not garnered the same controversy. His company Wetland Studies and Solutions started the commonwealth’s first wetland mitigation bank in 1991 and has also worked on stormwater management and regulatory policy for streams and wetlands.
“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,” Mr. Youngkin said in a statement. “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. Together, we will address Virginia’s ongoing environmental, energy, and natural resources challenges, including protecting the Chesapeake Bay, fully funding our best management practices, solving longstanding stormwater management issues, and establishing a Coastal Virginia Resiliency Authority.”
Mr. Youngkin also plans to nominate Kay Cole James, a former president of the conservative Heritage Foundation, to be the next Secretary of the Commonwealth. She served on the National Commission on Children during the administrations of Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush and served in the George W. Bush presidential administration and the Gov. George Allen administration.
The governor-elect will also nominate Bryan Slater to be the next Secretary of Labor. Mr. Slater served in every Republican presidential administration since Reagan and has held senior positions with Freedom Partners, Generation Opportunity and United for Life.
For Secretary of Public Safety, Mr. Youngkin plans to nominate Sheriff Bob Mosier. Sheriff Mosier was elected the Fauquier County sheriff in 2015 and served on the Criminal Justice Services Board in 2021 and the Substance Abuse Services Council in 2020 under Gov. Ralph Northam’s administration.