The beleaguered head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, resigned his position last week, on July 5th, only one day after attending a 4th of July event at the White House. President Trump accepted his resignation, and said that his assistant, Andrew Wheeler, would take over EPA as Acting Administrator.
Pruitt had befriended local Houston environmentalists such as Jackie Young of the SJRC, and Scott Jones of the GBF. It remains to be seen whether the new administrator will be as open and helpful on their local issues.
Pruitt had become well-known in Houston environmental circles, having visited the San Jacinto River Waste Pits in person, and placed their disposal on his “Top Ten” list of projects to receive his attention.
Pruitt’s tenure at the EPA was controversial from the beginning, and as he made a number of questionable choices in his style of administration, he became a constant source of embarrassment to the President and his administration.
He had been questioned by Congressmen and the media about high travel spending, security team costs, dealings with lobbyists who he would have to rule on later, and misuse of government resources.
Even as his resignation took affect, the President wrote on Twitter “he has done an outstanding job.”
Trump was pleased with Pruitt’s efforts to reduce or eliminate regulations that the White House said curbed business growth. But opponents and environmental activists said that these roll-back of regulations endangered the environment and the health of the population.
Reportedly Pruitt resigned of his own accord, telling the president that because of the controversy around him, he didn’t want to be a distraction to the administration.
Trump moved immediately to name his successor, Deputy Administrator Andrew Wheeler. Wheeler had only been an executive at EPA for a little more than two months.
Wheeler promised to continue Trump’s agenda to roll back environmental regulations to the benefit of industry.
Industry observers said they did not expect any significant changes in the direction of the EPA, although Wheeler’s style might be more methodical and slower to change.
Wheeler is a former Senate staffer and EPA employee. He also has been a lobbyist for the coal mining and energy industry for a period of over a decade, casting doubt on his objectivity in these matters.
Pruitt had been the Attorney General for the state of Oklahoma prior to his appointment to the EPA chief. Records show that he spent most of his time at the EPA meeting with industry representatives in businesses that he regulated.
Pruitt also challenged most of the scientific data on climate change.
Wheeler has promised to be more transparent and outgoing with the public, noting his work on the Community Right-to-Know Act.
In an interview with the Washington Post, when asked how he feels about his new job, Wheeler said “I really do think that my background, at this point in time, that this is the right job for me.”