A key committee in Virginias Democratic-majority State Senate has removed former Environmental Protection Agency chief Andrew WheelerAndrew WheelerOvernight Energy & Environment ‘Forever chemical’ suits face time crunchLawmaker asks ex-EPA chief why he couldn’t convince Trump climate change is realVirginia exits multi-state coalition backing EPA in climate lawsuitMORE, GOP Gov. Glenn YoungkinGlenn YoungkinThe Hill’s Morning Report – What’s Putin’s next move?Youngkin sparks Democratic backlash in VirginiaNor’easter leaves thousands without power on East CoastMOREs nominee for Secretary of Natural Resources, from a list of cabinet nominees, signaling the legislature may reject a state cabinet nominee for the first time in 16 years.

The state senates Committee on Privileges and Elections voted in a party-line 9-6 vote to remove Wheeler from the list of nominees, Sen. Ghazala Hashmi (D) confirmed on Twitter. Virginia needs a [Secretary of Natural and Historic Resources] dedicated to addressing the very serious issues of environmental protection and climate change.

Wheelers nomination raised the ire of environmental activists, who noted his history of rolling back environmental regulations under the Trump administration. Democrats, who hold a two-seat majority in the state senate, suggested they would block his nomination soon after the news broke.


This would make Wheeler the first cabinet pick rejected in the state since 2006, when the legislature rejected Daniel LeBlanc, then-Gov. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineDemocrats call on Biden administration to ease entry to US for at-risk AfghansManchin, Sinema join GOP to sink filibuster change for voting billDesperate Dems signal support for cutting Biden bill down in size MOREs (D) nominee for secretary of the commonwealth.

The removal of Wheelers name does not by itself defeat the nomination. The one-time EPA chief could still be re-added to the list via a floor amendment during a full Senate vote. However, the vote suggests that Wheeler did not win state Democrats over last week in a largely cordial hearing, during which he emphasized his belief in climate change and said his environmental record has been distorted by the press.

If Wheeler receives a single Democratic vote, Lt. Gov. Winsome Sears (R) would have the power to break the tie in his favor. State Sen. Joe Morrissey (D) on Friday told The Hill that he felt Wheeler acquitted himself well during questioning. Morrissey, who has broken with the majority in the past, said he would consult with experts in the weeks ahead before making a decision.

Morrissey is not a member of the Committee on Privileges and Elections.