Let's Meet Scott Pruitt's Potential Replacements

Illustration for article titled Let's Meet Scott Pruitt's Potential Replacements
Photo: AP

Scott Pruitt has racked up an immense number of scandals in his tenure leading the Environmental Protection Agency. But they exploded like a supernova this week, leading to questions of if he will keep his job.


While he’s certainly in better standing than other administration officials canned in recent weeks, Pruitt has also done himself no favors by giving a disastrous Fox News interview while scandalous news has continued to drip out. I’m not saying he’s gonna get fired, but if he does, who’s waiting in the wings?

Emily Atkin at the New Republic shed some light on Andrew Wheeler, Trump’s nominee to be deputy administrator, (spoiler: he’s a coal lobbyist) but he’s still in the confirmation process. Meanwhile there are five staffers at the EPA who have been confirmed through the Senate, and there’s an order of succession should Pruitt leave, care of an 2016 executive order (thanks Obama). They’re not too different from their boss, though.

“If Pruitt were to leave, all the other folks that he brought into the agency are still working to undermine the use of science in policymaking,” Yogin Kothari, a senior Washington representative at the Union of Concerned Scientist’s Center for Science and Democracy, told Earther. “All of them have their own conflicts of interest.”

Let’s meet them in the order of who get the job first!

Matthew Leopold

Before taking the gig of EPA general counsel, Leopold wasn’t a fan of the Waters of the U.S. rule, a wide-ranging rule that would regulate pollution from power plants, the Clean Power Plan for dealing with climate change, or a swath of other Obama-era regulations now under review at the EPA.

He’s a states right kinda guy, telling a conference put on by the conservative Federalist Society in 2016 that the federal government is “crowding out the proper role for the state governments to do what they do best.”

What do states do best, you may ask? In Leopold’s eyes, it doesn’t seem to be enforcing pollution rules. During his tenure as general counsel at the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, four lawyers were fired because, according to the department’s press secretary “there have been fewer enforcement cases.” One of the fired attorney’s assessments?


“It’s like Alice in Wonderland up there now.”

At least he hasn’t sued the agency he now works for?

Bill Wehrum

If you’re a regular on this here website, then you’ve already met Bill Wehrum, who currently runs the Office of Air and Radiation at EPA. If not, gather round for I have some info to share!


Like his boss, he’s sued the EPA a lot on behalf of the industries it regulates—31 times to be exact. This also isn’t his first stint at the EPA: He used to work there under George W. Bush. During his previous tenure, he tried to weaken mercury standards.

He is also apparently unaware of the fact that greenhouse gas increases are causing the climate to change, an issue he would have regulatory authority over as acting EPA head.


“I’m not familiar with those data, I have no idea what it depicts,” he said during his Senate confirmation hearing when asked to interpret a line plot depicting rising greenhouse gas emissions.

Well then.

David Ross

And what do we have here? Another lawyer who sued the EPA before working there!

Ross, who is now the head of the EPA’s Office of Water, sued the agency over the Waters of the U.S. rule when he was Wyoming’s attorney general in 2015. Prior to that, he spent 14 years working in private practice on behalf of companies tussling with the EPA.


Environmentalists don’t totally hate him, according to a report from E&E News, though the Sierra Club dubbed him along with Wehrum one of the “four horsemen of the EPA-pocalypse.”

Susan Bodine

Behind door number three, we have another lawyer who has sued the EPA on behalf of the companies it regulates, and a former Bush appointee!

Bodine seen here in the one photo of her we can legally use, at a 2007 hearing on chemical plant security.
Bodine seen here in the one photo of her we can legally use, at a 2007 hearing on chemical plant security.
Photo: Mike Derer (AP)

Bodine’s record includes suing and lobbying on behalf of companies associated with Superfund sites, the most polluted places in the country. She’s currently the assistant administrator of the EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. There, she’s tasked with playing bad cop to the groups she represented not just as a lawyer but a lobbyist, including the American Forest and Paper Association and Saint-Grobain Containers, Inc. This is not a good look for an assistant administrator, let alone an acting administrator.


In a written response to Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) during her confirmation hearing about her climate views obtained by E&E News, she wrote the ol’ chestnut, “The climate has always been changing.”

She also believes in the ever-shifting idea of “cooperative federalism” to run the agency, so it’s unlikely she’ll be a big break from Pruitt. Except she’s been OK in the past with cutting funding for Superfund cleanups, Pruitt’s favorite program.


Holly Greaves

Greaves is the EPA chief financial officer and served as an advisor during the transition. Prior to that, she was an accountant at KPMG.


“Holly is exceptionally qualified to be our chief financial officer and has been an integral advisor to the Agency as we look to enact meaningful fiscal reforms and eliminate wasteful spending,” Pruitt said in a statement announcing her nomination.

She has worked with Pruitt to defend the administration’s dramatic budget cuts to the agency—cuts Congress has largely resisted—though apparently those reforms didn’t extend to Pruitt’s own spending habits.


Managing editor at Earther, writing about climate change, environmental justice, and, occasionally, my cat.


Dense non aqueous phase liquid

This is good earther. We need to know who could be next. And then freak out, because the above list is a tool box full of tools.

Here’s my suggestion, realizing the republicans hold pretty much all our government. He’s unfortunately 86 years old.

William Ruckelshaus 

Headed up EPA twice once under Nixon and then Reagan after the first EPA head screwed the pooch and blah, blah blah. WR Became CEO of the second largest garbage company after Chicagoland’s Waste Management called Browning Ferris Industries (BFI).

Here’s why I recommend him - per Fortune Magazine 1996 article.

Talk About Tough Competition: How Bill Ruckelshaus is Taking on the New York Mob

Nomenclature: carter = garbage company

HOW have these carters been able to rule like this for so long? The many family ties among the firms clearly help foster cooperation. What’s more, the government virtually condones bad behavior with a toothless and antiquated regulatory system. Garbage luggers are required to list their customers with New York City’s Department of Consumer Affairs. That’s fine with the carters: Most of them buy and sell customers among themselves for big bucks without any written contract binding customer to carter. Thus the city, through its customer filing system, has placed itself in the bizarre position of running a property-rights registry for the cartel. “The city, in a sense, legitimizes, oversees, and puts its imprimatur on a scheme that has been established by the organized-crime families,” says U.S. Congressman Maurice Hinchey, an expert on the trash trade.

And how Ruckelshaus as CEO of BFI whacked the mob:

BFI typically entered markets through acquisitions. But do that in a wasteland like New York, warned Morgenthau, and you may just find yourself indicted along with everyone else. BFI made that mistake in New Jersey in the early 1980s, leading to the firm’s indictment (along with 23 other haulers) on charges of fixing prices and dividing up customers. Although BFI was acquitted after two trials, Ruckelshaus was not eager to repeat history. The only way to win in New York was to wipe out the cartel, a goal that required the chairman and the prosecutor to work together.

Entering a Mobbed-up market was one thing, but adopting a secret role in a government investigation was a tougher decision for BFI. The small circle of executives involved in the matter had many heated discussions. Fearing retaliation, regional head Jim Cosman was an initial voice of dissent. “I’d be riding on an airplane and wondering if it was the right thing to do,” he recalls. “Will somebody get hurt? Why would a corporation do this?”

New York City real estate titans were happy - but didn’t care too much since the exploitative cost of garbage collection and disposal was passed along to the tenants.

edit to add: fuck, I can’t spell.