Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt resigned Thursday, according to a report from CBS News. The decision followed months of controversy over ethics and corruption in his role at the EPA. His deputy, Andrew Wheeler, will be appointed as acting administrator on Monday, according to President Trump. Trump tweeted:
“I have no doubt that Andy will continue on with our great and lasting EPA agenda. We have made tremendous progress and the future of the EPA is very bright!”
He also said that “Within the Agency Scott has done an outstanding job, and I will always be thankful to him for this.”
Pruitt had been dogged by ethics scandals for months, including questions over his renting of a condo at below market rates from the family of a top energy industry lobbyist, extravagant spending on personal security, as well as the purchase of a $43,000 private phone booth for his office, all at the expense of taxpayers. He also has been accused of silencing critics at the agency.
Nonetheless, Pruitt portrayed himself as the victim of unfair attacks in his resignation later, writing that “the unrelenting attacks on me personally, my family, are unprecedented and have taken a sizable toll on all of us.”
Trump said he had not asked Pruitt to resign. However, several government investigations were underway into Pruitt’s activities, with the EPA’s inspector general investigating his security and travel spending, excessive raises given to some staff members, Pruitt’s housing arrangements, and his use of his staff for personal errands. After his resignation, the inspector general, already stretched thin, said the office was “evaluating and assessing” the status of the audits.
Pruitt had also faced especially heavy criticism from environmentalists, who saw him as too closely involved with industry interests. In his time as Oklahoma attorney general, Pruitt sued the EPA 13 times over regulations, and called for it to be eliminated entirely. In his tenure as EPA chief, he has consistently rolled back environmental regulations at nearly every opportunity.
Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island summed up the feeling of many Democrats and environmentalists in relation to Pruitt’s retirement:
“That this took so long shows how high the Trump administration’s tolerance is for corruption and sleaze. The sad part is that it was the cascade of little sleazy acts that brought Pruitt down, not his overarching corruption by fossil fuel interests.”
Pruitt is the fifth member of Trump’s cabinet to resign or be fired since taking office.