President Trump on Thursday nominated Andrew R. Wheeler, a coal lobbyist with links to outspoken deniers of established science on climate change, to help lead the Environmental Protection Agency.
In announcing Mr. Wheeler, a former aide to Senator James M. Inhofe, to be deputy administrator of the agency, the White House tapped an experienced legislative hand reviled by environmental activists but hailed by industry as having the know-how to dismantle Obama-era fossil fuel regulations.
The nomination comes at a critical moment for the E.P.A. as the agency prepares to repeal a sweeping climate change regulation known as the Clean Power Plan. It would also fill a key high-level position at the agency, where many top offices remain vacant. If confirmed by the Senate, Mr. Wheeler would become the most powerful person at the agency behind its administrator, Scott Pruitt.
“It’s a solid choice,” said Thomas J. Pyle, president of the Institute for Energy Research, a group that promotes fossil fuels and opposes most climate change policy. “Andrew is highly qualified, can work with Congress and understands what needs to be done to articulate President Trump and Administrator Pruitt’s vision of resetting our energy and environmental policies.”
Since 2009, Mr. Wheeler has been a leader in the energy practice of the law firm Faegre Baker Daniels. His clients at the firm have included Murray Energy, one of the nation’s largest coal mining companies. Before joining the firm, he worked on Capitol Hill for more than a decade, much of that time serving under Senator Inhofe as the Oklahoma Republican’s chief counsel and as the staff director for the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.
“He has spent his entire career working to improve environmental outcomes for Americans across the country and understands the importance of providing regulatory certainty for our country,” Mr. Pruitt said in a statement.