Scott Pruitt has resigned as Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, President Donald Trump announced.
Trump tweeted Thursday that he accepted Pruitt’s resignation.
“I have accepted the resignation of Scott Pruitt as the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. Within the Agency Scott has done an outstanding job, and I will always be thankful to him for this,” Trump said.
Pruitt says in his letter that “unrelenting attacks” have “taken a sizable toll” on his family.
“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,
Trump says the Senate confirmed Deputy at EPA, Andrew Wheeler, will “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,” said Trump.
…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
According to NPR, Wheeler, a longtime aide to Sen. James Inhofe, “worked on environmental legislation for more than 15 years in various roles on the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. He helped to defeat a 2008 climate bill before leaving to be a private consultant and lobbyist.”
Sen. Inhofe released a statement Thursday following Pruitt’s resignation:
“Scott Pruitt did great work to reduce the nations regulatory burdens facing our nation while leading the Environmental Protection Agency. He was single minded at restoring the EPA to its proper statutory authority and ending the burdensome regulations that have stifled economic growth across the country. I was pleased to work with him on critical issues, like pulling out of the Paris Climate Agreement and prioritizing the cleanup of Superfund sites.
“Andrew Wheeler is the perfect choice to serve as Acting Administrator. Andrew worked for me for 14 years, has an impeccable reputation and has the experience to be a strong leader at the EPA. I have no doubt and complete confidence he will continue the important deregulatory work that Scott Pruitt started while being a good steward of the environment. I applaud President Trump for placing him in this position.”
Pruitt, an Oklahoma Republican, came to the job as one of the EPA’s chief critics and was seen as someone philosophically at odds with the agency Trump tapped him to run.
While serving as Oklahoma’s attorney general, Pruitt was one of the chief architects of the legal battle against Obama’s climate change policies and repeatedly sued the agency. He described himself in his biography for that job as “a leading advocate against the EPA’s activist agenda.”
Critics of Pruitt’s nomination drew on his past statements to label him as a “climate skeptic,” a term for someone who denies the scientific link between human activity, climate change and associated impacts.
Along with Trump, who once said that “global warming was created by and for the Chinese,” Pruitt oversaw the efforts to dismantle major climate regulations. Trump announced at the beginning of June last year that he would withdraw the US from the Paris climate accords.
Pruitt announced in October he would withdraw the Clean Power Plan, an Obama-era regulatory structure to limit greenhouse gas emissions on a state-by-state basis.
Inquiries and reviews into Pruitt’s practices at EPA
Pruitt incurred a sizable number of investigations into his spending and practices at EPA, including inquiries by the House, Senate, the EPA itself and the White House. Among them were inquiries into Pruitt’s travel practices, spending within the agency and use of email.
The EPA inspector general is reviewing all of Pruitt’s 2017 travel, which is expected to include multiple taxpayer-funded weekend trips that Pruitt took to Oklahoma, as well as official travel to Italy and Morocco. The inspector general told Congress in a May 2018 letter that he expects the review will be completed by the end of September.
A different EPA inspector general review involves Pruitt’s travel practices, suggesting that it will review Pruitt’s use of his round-the-clock security detail, which travels with him even when off-duty on family vacations.
Separately, South Carolina Rep. Trey Gowdy, the Republican who chairs the House Oversight Committee, has asked EPA to justify Pruitt’s use of first or business class seats on flights.
This spring, Gowdy said Pruitt was not forthcoming with records.
There are also multiple inquiries into Pruitt’s lease of a $50-a-night Capitol Hill condo in 2017 from lobbyist Vicki Hart. Hart’s husband, J. Steven Hart, who is also a lobbyist, met with Pruitt at the same time that he was leasing that room.
A review of EPA emails showed deeper ties between Pruitt and lobbyists, including that a family friend of those lobbyists was considered for a position at EPA.
Both the EPA inspector general and the Government Accountability Office (GAO) are reviewing an April 2017 meeting that Pruitt had with the National Mining Association regarding the Paris climate agreement, which critics said may have violated anti-lobbying laws.
GAO found in April that Pruitt’s installation of a $43,000 soundproof phone booth violated federal spending laws because EPA didn’t notify lawmakers that it exceeded the $5,000 limit for agency heads to improve their offices. Pruitt and other EPA officials said Pruitt used the booth to receive classified information and to talk with White House and other administration officials.
Several reviews have to do with Pruitt’s use of email. Senate Environment and Public Works Chairman John Barrasso, a Wyoming Republican, began looking into reports that Pruitt had four EPA email addresses, at least one of which was not disclosed. EPA’s inspector general said in May that it would review Pruitt’s use of multiple email accounts, at the request of Senate Democrats.
Compounding all of these bruising headlines have been semi-frequent accounts of Pruitt’s personal conduct and use of official resources. Reports included Pruitt wanting to use sirens to get to an upscale French restaurant in Washington, having security and aides help him find a preferred lotion and pick up a used mattress from the Trump hotel in Washington. The anecdotes offered ammunition for critics of the now-outgoing EPA chief as a creature of the swamp Trump promised to drain.