Donald van der Vaart wrote a helluva cover letter.
Shortly after the November elections, divining that he would soon be out of work, the former secretary of the NC Department of Environmental Quality wrote a letter to Donald Trump laying out a new vision for the EPA. Its language largely mirrored Trump’s distaste for rules (unless he’s the one making them) and the president-elect’s purported, yet false, claim that he was a DC outsider looking out for the little people: Rolling back regulations, eliminating “federal overreach” and ending “secret policy-making by Washington insiders.”
The subtext of the letter was that van der Vaart was angling for a plum EPA job.
It worked. Although Trump nominated Scott Pruitt, Oklahoma attorney general and best friend of the fossil fuel industry to the top post, van der Vaart is on the short-short list of two finalists for deputy EPA administrator.
The Wall Street Journal reported the story today.
Van der Vaart’s competition is a Andrew Wheeler, a former top aide to Republican Sen. James Inhofe, also of Oklahoma. Wheeler is currently a lobbyist representing fossil fuel companies. The deputy EPA administrator will also have to be confirmed by the Senate, but only after Pruitt is officially at the agency. He has yet to be confirmed by the full Senate.
At DEQ, van der Vaart sued the EPA over the Clean Power Plan and the Waters of the United States, new regulations that were designed to reduce carbon emissions in the air and pollution in waterways and wetlands. Pruitt also sued the EPA over the same issues.
In one of his final acts as secretary, van der Vaart used his authority to demote himself to a post in the air quality division. Essentially, his self-demotion functioned as a way station until he could worm his way onto the Trump team. Even if he’s passed over for the No. 2 slot, van der Vaart could have other options, such as chief of the EPA’s Region 4, which includes North Carolina.
The Wall Street Journal quoted NC Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler, also a Republican, as calling on others in North Carolina and elsewhere to back van der Vaart for the EPA slot.
“We at the state level tend to be closer to the people, and closer to the people that the regulations are going to affect,” Troxler told the WSJ.