September 26, 2018

Trump's scandal-hit environment chief Pruitt resigns

06 July 2018, 02:58 | Edward Lowe

Trump's scandal-hit environment chief Pruitt resigns

Questions hang over the future of Scott Pruitt the head of the Environmental Protection Agency accused of excessive spending and ethical issues

President Donald Trump's tweet on Thursday that EPA chief Scott Pruitt resigned may have prompted some to celebrate.

Trump tweeted Thursday that EPA deputy Andrew Wheeler would "assume duties as the acting administrator of the EPA".

While Pruitt arrived in Washington as part of President Trump's promised wave of outsiders hoping to shake up the Capital, Wheeler has spent years navigating the intricacies of environmental policy.

Mr Trump confirmed Mr Pruitt's resignation on Twitter, saying he had done "an outstanding job". "We have made tremendous progress and the future of the EPA is very bright!"

In all, the Times reported, Pruitt is facing 13 federal inquiries into his spending and management practices.

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Pruitt and his activities have been the subject of numerous investigations by the EPA's inspector general, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, the Government Accountability Office, the White House Office of Management and Budget, and the U.S. Office of Special Counsel. He is a former coal lobbyist. But some worry that his promotion may accelerate the Trump administration's determined dismantling of the EPA.

Holding her two-year-old son, Kristin Mink urged the EPA head to resign "because of what you're doing to the environment in our country", and "before your scandals push you out".

Democratic US Representative Gerry Connolly said after his resignation: "Scott Pruitt's reign of venality is finally over".

"We now face the stark reality of a coal lobbyist, Andrew Wheeler, running the agency that is supposed to protect our air, water and climate", he said, in a statement.

Republicans say Wheeler is well-qualified to lead the EPA, having worked at the agency early in his career. Wheeler was serving as a lobbyist for Murray Energy at the time. The Washington Post reported Pruitt had aides try to get her a job at the Republican Attorneys General Association with a salary topping $200,000.

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He also tasked members of his staff with personal assignments, including finding him another apartment, getting his tickets to sporting events and trying to help his wife find a job. Inhofe expressed his support for his former staffer on Thursday, calling Wheeler "the flawless choice" to serve as acting EPA administrator.

Mr Pruitt also was instrumental a year ago in lobbying Mr Trump to withdraw the United States from the global 2015 Paris climate accord to combat global warming.

Wheeler also had a number of other high-profile clients in the energy sector, according to the Washington Post, and many of these companies have an interest in the regulations Wheeler will now make decisions about as acting head of the EPA.

For additional commentary on Pruitt and Wheeler, listen to this recent episode of GTM's newest podcast Political Climate.

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