President Donald Trump announced Thursday that he had accepted EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s resignation.
…on Monday assume duties as the acting Administrator of the EPA. I have no doubt that Andy will continue on with our great and lasting EPA agenda. We have made tremendous progress and the future of the EPA is very bright!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 5, 2018
Pruitt faced a wave of scandals during his tenure, both over his excessive and improper personal expenses and his aggressive, industry-aligned deregulatory agenda. On Tuesday, White House deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley told CNN that the President thought Pruitt “has done a really good job with deregulating the government.”
“We’ve gotten rid of record breaking regulations and it’s been really good,” Trump told reporters Thursday while wishing Pruitt well. “You know, obviously the controversies with Scott, but within the agency we were extremely happy.”
Pruitt’s various bizarre expenditures as administrator — from a $43,000 privacy booth he had installed in his office to the unnecessary, multi-million dollar 24/7 security force that accompanied his every step as a Trump Cabinet official — all added to the mythology of the former Oklahoma attorney general as a sort of pioneer in public corruption and misbehavior.
Pruitt staffers have admitted to doing personal work for the administrator on taxpayer time, including looking for apartments for Pruitt and job-hunting on his wife’s behalf. They’ve also admitted to maintaining multiple schedules in order to hide unsavory meetings from the public eye.
Pruitt’s deputy and now the acting EPA administrator, Andrew Wheeler, is a former coal lobbyist approved by the Senate in a 53-45 vote for the deputy job in April. After his confirmation, Wheeler began serving as a comfort for deregulartorily-minded Republicans eager for a quieter option to take over that agenda.
“There’s a guy behind him, Andrew Wheeler, who’s really qualified, too, so you know we could, that might be a good swap,” the Senate’s dean of climate science denial, Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) said last month. (Wheeler served as Inhofe’s chief of staff for years.)
Among the lengthy list: Pruitt blocked the Waters of the U.S. rule, which governed run-off pollution across the country; moved to repeal the Clean Power Plan, one of the Obama administration’s signature environmental achievements; pushed Trump to leave the Paris agreement on climate change; rolled back an Obama-era rule for the monitoring of methane emissions by oil and gas producers; began the process of repealing higher fuel standards for vehicles; and radically re-imagined air quality standards with polluters in mind.
He also degraded the EPA’s capabilities from the inside, reflected in the huge EPA staff exodus during his tenure. He moved to ban the EPA from relying on studies that use private data — which so happens to be the basis of many extremely influential environmental studies; banned scientists who receive EPA funding from serving on EPA advisory boards, replacing them with industry representatives; and politicized the agency’s grant process by putting a Trump loyalist in charge.
The list goes on and on. Many of these actions were challenged in court; Wheeler will likely continue to pursue all of them, and then some.
Read Pruitt’s resignation letter below:
Mr. President, it has been an honor to serve you in the Cabinet as Administrator of the EPA. Truly, your confidence in me has blessed me personally and enabled me to advance your agenda beyond what anyone anticipated at the beginning of your Administration. Your courage, steadfastness and resolute commitment to get results for the American people, both with regard to improved environmental outcomes as well as historical regulatory reform, is in fact occurring at an unprecedented pace and I thank you for the opportunity to serve you and the American people in helping achieve those ends.
That is why it is hard for me to advise you I am stepping down as Administrator of the EPA effective as of July 6. It is extremely difficult for me to cease serving you in this role first because I count it a blessing to be serving you in any capacity, but also, because of the transformative work that is occurring. However, the unrelenting attacks on me personally, my family, are unprecedented and have taken a sizable toll on all of us.
My desire in service to you has always been to bless you as you make important decisions for the American people. I believe you are serving as President today because of God’s providence. I believe that same providence brought me into your service. I pray as I have served you that I have blessed you and enabled you to effectively lead the American people. Thank you again Mr. President for the honor of serving you and I wish you Godspeed in all that you put your hand to.
Your Faithful Friend,
This post has been updated.