Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt resigned Thursday following a series of controversies regarding ethical lapses and improper spending.
Pruitt has done “an outstanding job,” tweeted Trump on Thursday, “and I will always be thankful for this.”
Pruitt, a former Attorney General for the state of Oklahoma, caught the attention of conservatives by leading several influential lawsuits against Obama-era policies like the Clean Power Plan and Affordable Care Act.
He was engaged in his 14th lawsuit against the EPA when he was tapped by Trump to lead the agency.
In a letter to Trump, Pruitt said the decision to resign was “extremely difficult,” but necessary, in light of the “unrelenting attacks” on him and his family.
The accusations against Pruitt include:
- Inappropriate spending within the agency
- Use of subordinates to complete personal errands
- Efforts to find his wife a job in Washington
- Occupation of a rental house owned by a DC lobbyist
- Travel expenses, including using EPA money to fly to his home state
- Pay raises for employees
While many Administration officials had urged Trump to fire him over his bad behavior, Trump never wavered in his support for Pruitt. And that’s because Pruitt did exactly what Trump wanted him to do.
Pruitt reorganized the agency to remove corruption (like the fact that its board members were voting themselves grants), undid almost all of Obama’s environmental agenda, and advised Trump to withdraw from the Paris Accord.
“He was single-minded at restoring the EPA to its proper statutory authority and ending the burdensome regulations that have stifled economic growth across the country,” said Senator Jim Inhofe (R-OK). “I was pleased to work with him on critical issues, like pulling out of the Paris Climate Agreement and prioritizing the cleanup of Superfund sites.”
Pruitt also took moves to limit the EPA’s oversight powers following years of complaints from Republicans that the agency had overreached in its regulations, including a June decision to restrict the agency’s ability to block permits issued to real-estate, mining, and other developers to dump waste into waterways.
As head of the EPA, he also acted as a lightning rod for criticism that took some of the pressure off Trump.
Taking Pruitt’s place (for now) is EPA Deputy Administrator Andrew Wheeler, a former lobbyist for the coal industry who will likely continue Pruitt’s efforts to establish the EPA as an agency that seeks to protect the environment without stifling business investment or opportunity.
“I am both humbled and honored to take on this new responsibility at the same agency where I started my career over 25 years ago,” said Wheeler.
Editor's note: Pruitt did the job he was meant to do, and became a lightning rod because of it. I'd say he deserves a round of applause.