Update November 16th, 3PM ET: President Trump is expected to nominate Andrew Wheeler, acting EPA director since Scott Pruitt’s resignation, to permanently become head of the agency.
Scott Pruitt has resigned as the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, amid a slew of scandals involving everything from luxury travels to rampant conflicts of interest. Second-in-command Andrew Wheeler, a former coal lobbyist, will become acting director of the EPA come Monday, according to President Donald Trump.
Since his appointment, Pruitt has come under fire for a growing number of scandals. He has been accused of spending way too much public money while traveling abroad, using two secret EPA email addresses, and having a chief of security who had heated confrontations with EPA officials who criticized Pruitt’s lavish spending. He asked aides to help with personal favors, like helping his wife find work.
Last year, E&E News reported that the EPA had shelled out over $830,000 for round-the-clock security for Pruitt in his first three months in office — almost double the amount spent by previous EPA leaders. He spent almost $68,000 in tax payers’ money traveling first class and staying in expensive hotels, and over $40,000 for a soundproof booth for his office.
He rented a $50 a night apartment in DC during his first six months in office — a steal for Capitol Hill, and the condo was tied to an energy company that had business with the EPA. Pruitt reportedly lied about approving significant salary bumps for two aides who had worked with him since before he took office and several EPA officials who spoke up against Pruitt left or were forced out, according to The New York Times.
It is unclear how many of the investigations are ongoing, and the EPA did not immediately respond to an emailed inquiry about them. But Pruitt’s resignation won’t stop the EPA’s Office of Inspector General from investigating. “Any ongoing or pending OIG reviews related to the Administrator and/or his team will continue—regardless of the Administrator’s resignation,” the EPA’s Office of Inspector General told CNN.
In response to the resignation, the nonprofit Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington responded with a one-word statement: “Good.”
Pruitt will leave a strong legacy of having tried to destroy the environment. He challenged the consensus view that human actions are causing global warming. He championed Trump’s agenda of dismantling environmental regulations passed under former president Barack Obama and encouraged the president to repeal the Paris accords, a core climate change policy designed to curb greenhouse gas emissions. He proposed lowering vehicle emissions standards for cars and trucks.
Unfortunately, it looks unlikely that Wheeler will be any better for the environment. He worked for climate denier and Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) and as a lobbyist for a coal company that has sued the EPA. Last year, Wheeler helped persuade the Trump administration to shrink Utah’s Bears Ears monument because of the potential for oil money. With Pruitt out, the EPA may see fewer scandals — but don’t expect it to be any friendlier to nature.
Update July 5th, 2018 6:10PM ET: Updated to include a statement the EPA’s Office of Inspector General gave CNN.