Virginia Gov.-elect Glenn Youngkin’s nomination last week of Andrew WheelerTo be his secretary for natural resources drew backlash from Democratic state lawmakers and climate activists, who expressed concern about the onetime lobbyist’s ties to the coal industry and his environmental record under former President Donald Trump. As secretary of natural resources, Wheeler would occupy the state’s top environmental post.
The nomination is likely to spark a contentious confirmation fight with Democratic state lawmakers concerned that Wheeler could reverse climate protections and environmental protections championed previous governors. Ralph Northam (D), accordingTo The Hill. Both chambers must confirm Cabinet nominees. The House of Delegates is controlled largely by Republicans. However, the State Senate has a narrow 21-to-19 majority of Democrats.
Wheeler is not the only nominee or staff member in Youngkin’s incoming administration to share ties to fossil fuel companies and energy providers, however.
Youngkin’s chief transformation officer, Eric Moeller, held senior executive positions at Valero Energy Corporation and AGE Refining, a Texas-based oil refiner, before joining consulting firm McKinsey & Company. While a partner at McKinsey, Moeller’s clients included a global offshore drilling operator and a North American mining company.
Margaret McDermid, Youngkin’s nominee for secretary of administration, was a senior vice president and chief information office at Dominion Energy — one of the state’s largest utility companies. She workedThere for more than 30+ years, before joining the Federal Reserve System.
The governor-elect was also named Richard Cullento serve as his legal counsel. A long-time political insider and a contributor to Youngkin’s campaign, Cullen is a senior partnerFormer chairman of the lobbying and legal firm McGuireWoods. He joined the firm in 1977 and spent most of his career there, leaving for only brief stints to serve as a U.S. attorney and Virginia’s attorney general.
According to federal lobbying disclosures, Cullen has not personally lobbied on behalf of any energy, mining or oil companies. However, Dominion Energy paid his firm more than $2.7million between 1998 and 2021. The firm was paid $120,000 to $150,000 each year to lobby on a wide range of issues from 2015 to 2020. This includes a controversial proposal to build the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (a 600-mile natural gas pipeline through Virginia). Cullen’s late brother-in-law, Thomas Farrell II was Dominion Energy’s CEO at the time. After years of fierce opposition from landowners as well as climate activists, the company was eventually founded. canceledThe project was stopped because of regulatory uncertainty and mounting cost.
Dominion Energy also retained McGuireWoods as a stateside lobbyist in 2017 accordingThe Virginia Public Access Project.
Youngkin did not provide any specific policy details regarding energy and environmental issues during his gubernatorial campaign. This left his views on these issues unclear. Although he was acknowledged that rising seas pose a risk to coastal communities, he called Virginia’s Clean Economy Act — which requires the state’s largest utility companies to be 100% carbon-free by 2050 — “unworkable”and emphasized the need to embrace all energy sources: wind, solar, nuclear, and natural gas.
He has been a more recent addition to the list. vowedto pull the State out of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. This is an 11-state carbon marketplace in which power plants purchase carbon allowances in quarterly auctions.
The governor-elect’s office did not respond to requests for comment.
In a statement announcing Wheeler’s nomination, Youngkin said, “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.”
He added that Wheeler shares his “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.”
Youngkin was a former chief executive at a firm of private equity. He defeated former Virginia Governor. Terry McAuliffe(D) in most expensive governor’s race in recent state history. Together, McAullife was able to raise more than $136,000,000 during the election. This was mainly due to big donors who contributed $10,000 or greater. Virginia does not limit the amount of donations individuals can make to candidates.
Among Youngkin’s wealthy benefactors were several people connected to the energy and natural resources sector, campaign finance records show. Richard Gilliam, the former president of a family-owned Virginia coal mining company, gave $300,000 to Youngkin’s campaign. Bruce Gottwald$250,000. Contributed by, former head of a state-owned petroleum additives company. Mindy HildebrandHilcorp, the largest privately owned oil and gas company in America, was founded by a husband and wife named.
Altogether, people and companies in the energy and natural resources sector contributed more than $1.2 million to Youngkin’s campaign, according to an OpenSecrets analysisList of campaign finance records
McAullife raisedThe sector’s contribution to the energy and natural resource sector is less than half. The sector contributedNearly $7.7 million was awarded to all candidates during the Virginia 2021 elections cycle.