So Long, Scandal Boy

Illustration for article titled So Long, Scandal Boy
Photo: AP

Scott Pruitt, man of many scandals, has resigned. He had one heck of a run.

On Thursday afternoon, President Trump tweeted that the embattled head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had turned in his resignation, and that his deputy would take over for him as acting EPA administrator on Monday. It comes after a tsunami of scandals large and small, involving lotion, used mattresses, football tickets, and a weird private phone booth slowly turned the tide against Pruitt. Princeton historian Kevin Kruse put it best, tweeting that Pruitt was like a Voltron of corruption.


He also left a legacy of turning the EPA on its head. The agency’s mission “is to protect human health and the environment.” It has fulfilled that mission by enacting rules the reduce pollution in waterways and the air. From the day he was confirmed in February 2017, Pruitt set to work dismantling many of those rules.

His many “accomplishments” include wiping out auto emissions standards, installing a “transparency” rule that’s just an attempt to weaken the science EPA uses in rulemaking, and undoing carbon pollution rules. His EPA also managed to temporarily block a report on harmful chemicals and stock independent advisory boards with industry shills. Pruitt lied on national television about climate, and convinced the president to announce he was pulling the U.S. out of the Paris Agreement, the world’s main pact to address climate change. The man was a perfect vessel for the fossil fuel and chemical industries to impose their polluting will on the American people.

Pruitt’s horrible environmental record and hostility toward the agency is only rivaled by Anne Gorsuch (mother of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch) who ran the EPA under Reagan. But it’s safe to say Scott will occupy a special place in everyone’s heart for not only his disregard for the EPA’s mission but personal ethics and morals. His resignation letter, chock full of language about serving God and blessings, only underscores how full of it he is.

Unfortunately, while the scandals will disappear, Pruitt’s abysmal environmental legacy will remain intact. His replacement—for now—is Andrew Wheeler, a former coal lobbyist who shares Pruitt’s distaste for the agency’s core mission. We’ll see if he shares his same taste in tactical pants and Ritz Carlton lotion.

As recently as last week, Wheeler said he had no desire to be EPA chief. But he’ll be an acting in that role until Trump nominates and the Senate confirms a full-time replacement, a process the New York Times noted could drag out beyond the November elections. It’s tough to imagine it going smoothly.

This is a developing story and we will update it as more information becomes available.


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



The good news about Scott Pruitt resigning is that he has to do evil work elsewhere.

The bad news about Scott Pruitt resigning is that his more experienced underling gets to take over.

For that reason, Mr. Wheeler’s friends and critics alike say, he could ultimately prove to be more effective than his controversial former boss in implementing President Trump’s deregulatory agenda.

It will get worse before it gets better.