WASHINGTON — Scott Pruitt has resigned as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, following a series of ethics scandals in how he used the perks of his position for personal gain and managed employees at the agency.
In a tweet, President Donald Trump said that Andrew Wheeler, the deputy administrator, will serve as its acting chief.
“I have accepted the resignation of Scott Pruitt as the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. Within the Agency Scott has done an outstanding job, and I will always be thankful to him for this. The Senate confirmed Deputy at EPA, Andrew Wheeler, will on Monday assume duties as the acting Administrator of the EPA. 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,” Trump wrote.
Pruitt is the subject of more than a dozen investigations into his ethical conduct as the chief of the EPA, including his use of government-funded air travel, his use of an extensive personal security detail, and plans to purchase a $43,000 secure phone booth. He also faced questions of how he gave out raises to two of his top aides.
He also faced other questions of whether he was properly using staff resources. The New York Times reported in June that Pruitt had asked an EPA employee to help coordinate a business venture, reportedly for his wife to set up a Chick-fil-A franchise. He also accepted a low-cost lease on a condo in Washington from the wife of an industry lobbyist.
The drip, drip, drip of stories of how Pruitt spent agency funds and used his office proved embarrassing for the Trump administration, and over the past few days it became clear that he probably would not survive in that position for much longer. Although he attended the White House Fourth of July celebration on Wednesday, a White House spokesman earlier in the week said that the most recent revelations were “troublesome, and there are many of those troublesome reports.”
Trump told reporters that Pruitt did an “outstanding job,” but “I think Scott felt that he was a distraction.”
Trump, though, praised Pruitt for his moves at deregulation, something that made him a target of environmental groups. As Oklahoma’s attorney general before he joined the Trump administration, Pruitt often challenged the Obama-era EPA as it sought to take steps to limit the impact of climate change.
“Our work isn’t done,” said the Sierra Club’s executive director, Michael Brune. “Scott Pruitt was the worst EPA Administrator in history, and any President that cared about protecting taxpayers, respecting science, tackling the climate crisis, or protecting the environment would have fired him months ago.”
Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.), tweeted in response to Pruitt’s resignation that it was “About. Damn. Time.”
But he said that Wheeler also was problematic when it came to favoring industry over the environment.
“With Pruitt out and Andrew Wheeler at the helm, the EPA Administrator will no longer be
#BigOil‘s right hand man, it’ll be King Coal’s best lobbyist,” he wrote.
Pruitt said in his resignation letter, below, that “it is extremely difficult for me to cease serving you in this role first because I count it a blessing to be serving you in any capacity, but also, because of the transformative work that is occurring. However, the unrelenting attacks on me personally, my family, are precedented and have taken a sizable toll on all of us.”
Pruitt’s resignation is the latest of a stream of administration figures who have departed after stormy or controversial tenures. Tom Price, Trump’s Health and Human Services secretary, resigned in September over his use of government-funded chartered aircraft and military transport.