This story was originally published by Huffpost and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.
Democratic state senators in Virginia took a first step Tuesday toward blocking Andrew Wheeler, Donald Trump’s controversial second head of the Environmental Protection Agency and a former coal lobbyist, from becoming the state’s top environmental official.
A Senate committee that considers gubernatorial nominees voted 9-6 along party lines to remove Wheeler’s name from a resolution approving Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s (R) Cabinet appointments.
But, as The Virginian-Pilot reported, it may not be the end of the line for Wheeler’s nomination. His name could ultimately be added back to the resolution on the Senate floor. All it would take is a single Democrat in the narrowly divided state Senate voting with Republicans.
Tuesday’s vote adds to what has proved to be a contentious confirmation process, in which scores of current and former EPA employees urged Virginia lawmakers to vote against Wheeler, citing his record of gutting environmental rules while at the helm of the federal agency.
Virginia Senate Democratic Caucus Chair Mamie Locke called Wheeler’s nomination “dangerous for Virginia’s future.”
“Governor Youngkin has said time and time again he would like to bridge the partisan divide and work together for Virginia’s next generation,” Locke said in a statement following the vote. “However, his choice of Trump alum Andrew Wheeler for the position of Secretary of Natural Resources proves his unwillingness to bring properly qualified officials into our government.”
Youngkin tapped Wheeler to serve as his secretary of natural resources in January and, in the face of mounting public pressure, maintained he was “the most qualified person for this job.”
Democrats, who hold a 21-19 majority in the state Senate, signaled last week that they were united in their opposition and had the votes to sink Wheeler’s nomination. But one member of the party, Sen. Joseph D. Morrissey, revived what…