Thursday, July 5, 2018

Toxic Shock: Scott Pruitt Finally Resigns From EPA

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt resigned on Thursday, President Donald Trump announced in a tweet, bringing to an end a tenure in which the agency created to enforce environmental laws instead became a powerful tool of those it was tasked with regulating.

“I have accepted the resignation of Scott Pruitt as the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency,” Trump tweeted. “Within the Agency Scott has done an outstanding job, and I will always be thankful to him for this.”

Trump added that Andrew Wheeler, Pruitt’s deputy at the EPA, would assume the administrator’s duties on Monday. A former energy industry lobbyist, Wheeler will likely maintain the deregulatory policy track that Pruitt pursued in his year and a half on the job.

“Mr. President, it has been an honor to serve you,” Pruitt wrote in his resignation letter. But “the unrelenting attacks on me personally, my family, are unprecedented and have taken a sizable toll on all of us.”

Pruitt’s departure comes amidst declining morale at the agency, which has been racked by turnover over the last few months. In the minutes following the announcement of the resignation, The Daily Beast received numerous messages from multiple former EPA staffers, and current White House officials, celebrating the news. Some were simply left in shock that his ouster from the Trump administration actually, finally happened.

Pruitt’s resignation follows a series of widening ethics scandals that were set into motion almost immediately after his narrow confirmation in February 2017. In fact, as of Thursday, Pruitt had 19 open investigations into his conduct at the EPA. It was Trump’s personal affinity for Pruitt, and approval of his efforts to roll back Obama-era environmental regulations, that kept him in the job in spite of that controversy. But damaging revelations continued to trickle out, with no apparent end in sight.

Pruitt initially came under fire from the left for wide-ranging actions seen as dismantling President Barack Obama’s environmental legacy: slashing EPA enforcement actions by more than 30 percent, instituting gag rules meant to ban staff from talking about certain environmental issues, and even creating a blacklist of agency employees who worked on anthropogenic climate change.

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