Today, in response to the myriad of self-induced scandals which have plagued him ever since he took the job, Scott Pruitt resigned his position as
chief saboteur Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.
He will be replaced by Deputy Administrator Andrew Wheeler as acting administrator, a former coal lobbyist who worked with Murray Energy CEO Bob Murray; was an aide for Jim Inhofe, the top climate science denier in the Senate; and who helped craft the Bush administration’s ironically-named “Clear Skies” initiative, an effort to destroy the Clean Air Act.
Wheeler was previously confirmed as deputy EPA administrator by the Senate through a mostly party-line vote of 53-45, with three Democratic Senators – Joe Manchin of WV, Heidi Heitkamp of ND, and Joe Donnelly of IN voting to confirm. Notably, all of these states generate large portions (>66%) of their electricity through burning coal.
Wheeler’s connection to the coal industry is strong. As a former lobbyist for Murray Energy, Wheeler had knowledge of the three-page directive which Bob Murray gave to the EPA after donating $300,000 to Mr. Trump’s inauguration fund, with a list of demands from the coal industry for the new administrator to enact. Wheeler was also personally involved in the DOE’s attempt at a $70 billion bailout for the coal industry with a proposed rule which was later stopped by the FERC.
In order to become the full (rather than “acting”) administrator, Wheeler or another nominee will need to be confirmed by the Senate. Wheeler may or may not want the job of full administrator, as he stated just last week that he was not interested in the job, but he does seem to fit the same mold as his former boss, at least in his ideology and experience connected to the fossil industry.
Nomination of an official replacement may not come for months however, particularly given the upcoming midterm elections. If you do have any feelings on whether an EPA administrator should actually be interested in protecting the environment, feel free to give your Senators a call and let them know how you feel.
Apparently his tactical pants couldn’t protect him from his greatest enemy – his penchant for violating ethics rules by overspending public money on strange items like used mattresses and a cone of silence. After constant public pressure and embarrassment to his position ever since he was appointed, finally he’s done the first sensible act of his entire blunderous existence and quit. Good. Riddance.
As a site which covers clean energy and encourages better environmental protections for the world, we have previously advocated against Pruitt and his pro-pollution, anti-environment stance. We are happy to see him go, but dismayed that his replacement may well be just as bad as him.
Wheeler seems to suffer from the same pro-pollution, science-denying attitudes as his previous boss, but has spent more time in DC and thus may have some more political savvy than his predecessor. While Pruitt was doing his work to make Americans less healthy, there were constant distractions which came from his lack of savvy, some of which were mentioned above.
We have yet to see whether Wheeler or any other replacement for Pruitt will suffer from the same distractions, but Wheeler’s time in DC and his reputation as an “insider” who is capable of navigating Washington competently suggests that he will perhaps avoid them a little better. On the one hand, this will mean that we are no longer being represented by an embarrassment, which is a positive, but on the other hand it means that he will perhaps be more able to continue Pruitt’s nefarious work without so many distractions.
We will do our best to report on whatever misdeeds he, or whoever replaces him, gets up to, but I’ll miss the opportunity to exercise my snark muscle if he does indeed act a little more professionally than his predecessor.
But perhaps we’ve got a potential remedy ready in our back pocket, should the replacement turn out to be just as bad. Just three days ago a woman confronted Pruitt while he was having dinner, urging him to resign his post. Apparently this was one unpleasant interaction too many, as here we are three days later and he has resigned his post. Now, if only someone could leak Wheeler’s dinner plans to that woman…