EPA chief Scott Pruitt resigned today following a growing number of controversies involving spending, ethics, and management decisions.
President Trump tweeted that he had accepted Pruitt’s resignation. Former Murray Energy lobbyist Andrew Wheeler will become the agency’s acting director.
“The departure marked a precipitous fall for Pruitt, who during his roughly 16 months in office took steps to reverse more than a dozen major Obama-era regulations and overhauled key elements of the agency’s approach to scientific research,” the Washington Post’s Brady Dennis and Juliet Eilperin wrote.
Pruitt helped convince the president to withdraw the United States from the 2015 Paris accord, Coral Davenport reported in the New York Times. “In 2017, Mr. Pruitt made headlines for questioning the established science of human-caused climate change, contradicting decades of research by scientific institutions, including his own agency.”
In the spring, anti-Pruitt sentiments soared. Environmental groups launched a Boot Pruit campaign and several GOP members of Congress called for his resignation. At the time, the president expressed support for the EPA head.
The controversies continued to mount, however. Pruitt testified on Capitol Hill in late April, answering questions about security measures, travel expenses, and raises to two staffers. Four EPA officials announced their departures in May. Two of them had come under intense scrutiny related to investigations into Pruitt’s travel, spending, and management practices.
Last month, a federal judge ruled that the EPA and Pruitt had to provide research backing up their climate denial statements. In addition, Pruitt is the subject of at least 13 federal investigations, Davenport wrote. “[A] government watchdog agency concluded that he had broken the law with his purchase of a $43,000 secure telephone booth.”
Pruitt’s resignation letter was unapologetic. He blamed “unrelenting attacks” on himself personally and his family for the departure, according to a copy obtained by Fox News reporter John Roberts he tweeted as screenshots.
Acting EPA Director Wheeler
The Senate voted to confirm Andrew Wheeler in April. He is a former Senate staffer and EPA employee who spent the past decade representing coal, mining, and other energy companies, the Washington Post reported. Davenport noted that Wheeler shares Pruitt’s zeal for dismantling climate change regulation.
Inside Climate News politics reporter Marianne Lavelle covered his confirmation hearing this spring.
“Wheeler served until last year as top lobbyist to Murray Energy, the nation’s largest underground mining company,” she wrote. “Administration critics argue that the company’s CEO, Bob Murray, one of President Donald Trump’s most avid campaign supporters in the fossil fuel industry, has undue influence with the administration; Trump’s team already has checked off a number of the items on a deregulatory ‘action plan’ Murray submitted to the White House soon after Trump’s inauguration.”
Before becoming a lobbyist, Wheeler worked for Republican Senator James Inhofe (R-Okla.), a prominent climate science denier.