Quick Thoughts on Scott Pruitt resignation as EPA Administrator

Deputy Administrator Andrew Wheeler, Former Coal Lobbyist, to Serve as Acting Administrator

As Dan Farber just pointed out, President Trump announced minutes ago via Twitter that Scott Pruitt is (finally) stepping down as Administrator of the US Environmental Protection Agency.  Deputy Administrator Andrew Wheeler, a former lobbyist for the coal industry, will serve as Acting Administrator pending confirmation of a new Administrator.  I have a few quick thoughts.

Pruitt’s resignation comes after months of scandals in which his ethics have been questioned over large and small matters.  There are at least 14 federal investigations into his conduct pending.

Even GOP Congressman Trey Gowdy (appearing on Fox News) has ridiculed Pruitt.  More recently, conservative commentator Laura Ingraham called for his resignation.

While Pruitt’s resignation appears to have been prompted by these scandals, his anti-environmental policies have put him in the crosshairs of advocates for public health and the environment, and he has been criticized for breaking longstanding regulatory strategies, misleading the public about the agency’s work and mandate, letting industry lobbyists have a hand in writing policy, and violating the statutes his agency is charged with enforcing.  Pruitt’s EPA has been starting rollbacks of major public health and environmental protections, many of which–like the recent attacks on California’s auto emissions standards–have little to no legal support.  His agency has also been dramatically weakening the agency’s commitment to science. (I blogged about the Trump EPA’s new messaging against environmental protection, its anticipated policy rollbacks,  and its anti-science agenda in detail last March, highlighting the signs that the administration already was acting to dismantle EPA.)  His disrespect for agency staff, and resulting dysfunction in the agency, were widely reported.

The policy changes and backsliding from EPA’s mission were inevitable from the moment the transition began, when Myron Ebell–well known for his opposition to climate science and to environmental regulation generally– was tapped to lead the EPA transition. Pruitt’s replacement (at least for now), Andrew Wheeler, is certain to continue the anti-regulatory, anti-science slant of Trump’s EPA.  In addition to being a coal industry lobbyist, Wheeler was chief of staff for many years for Sen. James Inhofe, who was been the Senate’s strongest voice against climate science and environmental protection.  His views in opposition to strong environmental and public health protection are widely known.  At the same time, Wheeler has a reputation for being more careful than Pruitt, and also for understanding the workings of the agency.  This should mean that he will be less likely to break agency norms and alienate staff.  But from a policy perspective, Wheeler’s ascension to this role will surely continue the path Pruitt has been on since he was confirmed, and possibly be even more effective.  Regardless, it’s sure to be an interesting time at EPA.

The full text of Pruitt’s resignation letter is here.

[Post revised to add more links to sources.]

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Reader Comments

6 Replies to “Quick Thoughts on Scott Pruitt resignation as EPA Administrator”

  1. Secretary Pruitt deserves much honor and credit for dismantling the Clean Power Plan, Paris Agreement, 2015 Clean Water Act rule, and other punitive and ineffective environmentally dubious regulations. Carbon dioxide is no longer venerated as a air pollutant and this problem will soon be fixed.

    Pruitt beat back junk science and exposed the big lie and public fraud of so-called “climate mitigation” and those “50,000 deaths each year” from atmospheric CO2. Secretary Pruitt’s outstanding contributions to good environmental policies shall never be erased and his legacy will continue to flourish in the EPA going forward.
    Thank you Mr. Pruitt.

    1. Everyone raise your hand if you are surprised BQRQ is an avid supporter of the most nakedly corrupt Trump appointee. Anyone?

      1. BBQ PLANET – The paramount question still remains, as featured in the NGM July issue:

        Climate Change First Became News 30 Years Ago. Why Haven’t We Fixed It?


        The tragic answer was concluded by historians Will and Ariel Durant in their “The Story of Civilization”:

        “When the group or a civilization declines, it is through no mystic limitation of a corporate life, but through the failure of its political or intellectual leaders to meet the challenges of change.”

        Thus the most inconvenient truth is that we have never learned from and acted upon this most important lesson of history enough to save the human race from the power of money that controls our future today.

        Even the most important global warming spokesperson to date Al Gore continues to be marginalized by political and intellectual establishments that are controlled by the power of money.

        As President Eisenhower gravely warned us in his 1961 Farewell Address to the Nation, which has also been marginalized by the establishments controlled by the power of money:

        “The prospect of domination of the nation’s scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present – and is gravely to be regarded.”

        So Trump is the consequence of our ultimate academic failure to inform, educate and motivate the peoples of the world even as global warming increasingly destroys our environment today.

  2. Thank you Dan, now it is time for you to take the leadership position, join experts together and make the right things happen in time to protect and perpetuate an environment that shall provide all future generations with an acceptable quality of life.

    1. Sean, sorry about my failure to post this comment on the right post, please delete it from your post, unless you want to take or share the leadership with Dan.

      1. No apology necessary. We’re all doing what we can, Anthony. Thanks for your comments.

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About Sean

Sean B. Hecht is the Co-Executive Director of the Emmett Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, Evan Frankel Professor of Policy and Practice, and Co-Director o…

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About Sean

Sean B. Hecht is the Co-Executive Director of the Emmett Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, Evan Frankel Professor of Policy and Practice, and Co-Director o…

READ more