Pruitt out at EPA as scandals mount

Scott Pruitt is out as the nation’s top environmental chief.

President Donald J. Trump announced in a July 5 tweet he has accepted Pruitt’s resignation as administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The news comes amid growing controversy over ethical questions regarding Pruitt. Trump also announced deputy administrator Andrew Wheeler will assume the role of acting administrator for the time being.

Despite the recent ethics scandals, calls for Pruitt’s resignation from EPA have been pouring in for some time.

From the beginning, his role as the head of the agency drew sharp criticism from Democrats starting when then-President-elect Trump first nominated him for the position in December 2016. At the time, Pruitt, a Republican serving as Oklahoma Attorney General, vowed to dismantle several environmental laws.

He was also involved in a legal effort by 27 states to overturn President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan, a primary policy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In October 2017, Pruitt and EPA withdrew the Clean Power Plan, citing job loss and arguing the plan demonstrated regulatory overreach.

Numerous ethics claims against Pruitt have since emerged, and the noise reached a new height in early 2018 when he faced criticism over his use of taxpayer dollars for his security team, expenditures on personal travel and his questionable ties to energy lobbyists. By April, Democrats in the House of Representatives were calling on Trump to either fire Pruitt or urge him to resign.

Trump remained largely supportive of Pruitt up until his July 5 resignation. The president considered him a key member of his cabinet since the start of his administration due to his strong commitment to deregulation at the agency.

In an April tweet, Trump said: “While Security spending was somewhat more than his predecessor, Scott Pruitt has received death threats because of his bold actions at EPA. Record clean Air & Water while saving USA Billions of Dollars. Rent was about market rate, travel expenses OK. Scott is doing a great job!”

During his time at EPA, Pruitt was a supporter of the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) program and supported keeping the Drinking Water and Clean Water State Revolving Funds (SRFs) maintained at current levels. The former administrator also repeatedly highlighted EPA’s goal of eradicating lead from drinking water within 10 years. Pruitt had told Congress the goal could be achieved “largely through the utilization of [funding from the] WIFIA program.”

In a written statement to the House Environment Subcommittee in April, Pruitt referenced the Trump administration’s FY19 request of $20 million for WIFIA, which he said could “provide up to $2 billion in credit assistance” and support $4 billion in total infrastructure investments when local matching funds are factored in. Pruitt told lawmakers that he hoped to “prioritize funding in the WIFIA program” for lead service line replacement projects.

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