Environment, Trump Administration

Trump appoints coal lobbyist to Justice Department to prosecute environmental crimes

Dan River coal ash spill (Photo: Waterkeeper Alliance, Flickr Creative Commons)

A division of the U.S. Justice Department that prosecuted Duke Energy over the Dan River coal ash spill is now being run by a former lobbyist for the coal industry.

President Trump appointed Jeffrey H. Wood as Acting Assistant Attorney General of the Environment and Natural Resources Division on Inauguration Day, Jan. 20.

Although Trump hasn’t nominated anyone for the permanent post, Wood is in charge until the Senate confirms the nominee.  Wood was a lobbyist for Southern Company, an investor-owned utility, until Jan. 17.

The Intercept first reported the story last Friday.

During his tenure, Wood filed a legal brief on behalf of Congressional lawmakers that supported states suing the EPA over the Clean Power Plan. Those lawmakers include all of North Carolina’s Republican House members.

The division is responsible for representing the U.S. in lawsuits and policy work regarding environmental crimes , public lands, natural resources, wildlife protection, Indian rights and claims, and challenges to federal environmental programs and activities.

For example, this division helped prosecute Volkswagen executive Oliver Schmidt for allegedly conspiring to cheat on auto emissions tests.  The attorneys also struck a plea agreement with a man trafficking in rhinoceros horns and another person from North Carolina illegally harvesting and selling Atlantic Striped Bass.

Wood also worked as legal counsel advising Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama; Sessions is Trump’s nominee for U.S. Attorney General.

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In dozens of vitally important areas, policy decisions of the Trump administration are dramatically affecting and altering the lives of North Carolinians. This growing collection of stories summarizes and critiques many of the most important decisions and their impacts.