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Under fire for ethics scandals, EPA chief Pruitt resigns

06 July 2018

President Donald Trump announced Thursday that his embattled Environmental Protection Agency chief, Scott Pruitt, had resigned.

In a series of tweets, the president thanked Pruitt for his "outstanding" service and announced that Andy Wheeler, the EPA's current deputy head and a former coal lobbyist and Senate staffer, will take over as acting administrator.

"I have accepted the resignation of Scott Pruitt as the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency", tweeted the president, ending months of speculation about the future of the man he tasked with dismantling Barack Obama's green legacy.

In all, the Times reported, Pruitt is facing 13 federal inquiries into his spending and management practices. It's this notoriety and insider savvy that could make Wheeler risky; unlike Pruitt, who was relatively new to Washington when he took the job leading the EPA, Wheeler could continue to work closely with old friends.

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Pallone last month accused Pruitt's EPA of "betraying the bipartisan effort" that led to passage led to a law updating federal chemical regulations and was named for the late U.S. Sen.

Pruitt, who has been widely praised by conservatives for his deregulatory agenda, attributed his departure to "unrelenting attacks" against him and his family. It's still unclear. What we do know: His replacement, Andrew Wheeler, holds views similar to Pruitt's.

Pruitt's exit came just days after a woman confronted him at a Washington restaurant and called on him to resign.

"We deserve to have someone at the EPA who actually does protect our environment, someone who actually does believe in climate change and takes it seriously", Mink told Pruitt.

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Andrew Wheeler, seated on the far right, attended a March 2017 meeting between Energy Secretary Rick Perry and Murray Energy CEO Robert Murray about promoting policies to benefit the finances of the coal industry.

Republicans say Wheeler is well-qualified to lead the EPA, having worked at the agency early in his career. Inhofe expressed his support for his former staffer on Thursday, calling Wheeler "the ideal choice" to serve as acting EPA administrator. Wheeler was serving as a lobbyist for Murray Energy at the time. This differs from Pruitt, who drew attention not only for his aggressive moves to cut back regulations but also for mounting scandals and questions about potential ethics violations.

Wheeler was only marginally approved as EPA deputy in April.

Meanwhile, a senior administration official told CNN that Pruitt is "inching closer to the tipping point" amid the controversies.

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

Under fire for ethics scandals, EPA chief Pruitt resigns