Pruitt is out, handing EPA reins to former coal lobbyist

Cheryl Sanders
July 7, 2018

Scott Pruitt's tenure as the head of the Environmental Protection Agency ended with his resignation, but political experts in his home state of Oklahoma say he could continue his career in public office. For months he had ranked as a personal confidant and influential policy adviser to the president, commiserating with Trump over negative stories and indiscreet aides while praising the commander-in-chief for his intelligence and political acumen. 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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Trump told reporters later that Pruitt had approached him and offered to resign.

President Donald Trump is continuing to praise Pruitt, saying there was "no final straw" and he had not asked for Pruitt's resignation.

"Given his decades of public service, including time at the EPA, his dedication to the American people will be greatly appreciated in this new interim role", said Renacci.

Mr. Pruitt blamed his departure on "unrelenting attacks on me personally". Among his former clients are Murray Energy, which teamed up with Pruitt to sue the EPA; Energy Fuels Resources Inc., a uranium mining company that recently petitioned the Trump administration to decrease the size of the Bears Ears National Monument; and a liquid natural gas company called Bear Head LNG Corp.

"Within the Agency Scott has done an outstanding job, and I will always be thankful to him for this", Trump said. "Wheeler is ethically compromised", said a statement by Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, an environmental campaign group, back in April.

The White House press office told EPA officials to stop booking Pruitt on TV, according to three current and former aides.

After much prodding by numerous advisers, Trump eventually decided Pruitt's troubles would only grow and that Deputy Administrator Andrew Wheeler -whom he deemed an "early Trump supporter and a very environmental person" could do just as well, administration officials said.

Now, in Wheeler, Murray not only has one of his former lobbyists inside the EPA, he has them running it. I believe you are serving as President today because of God's providence.

When Pruitt sued the EPA 14 times as Oklahoma attorney general between 2011 and 2017 on behalf of polluting industries, a top petitioner and co-petitioner in half those cases was coal giant Murray Energy.

The reason Pruitt persisted so long is the same reason why his environmentalist foes shouldn't break out the organic Champagne: The administrator was doing exactly what his boss wanted.

"We urge him to immediately commit to undoing the massive damage to EPA's work done under Pruitt's leadership".

"We're proud of him for that", Pollard said. The Rhode Island Democrat, who serves on the EPW committee and has gotten high marks from conservation activists, expressed optimism that Wheeler would prove to be "the honest broker we knew" from his previous work on the committee.

All told, Pruitt left EPA having faced more than a dozen inquiries or reviews into his practices at the agency, including his first-class plane travel, a room that he rented from a lobbyist at $50 per night and the installation of a soundproof booth in his office.

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