Incoming EPA administrator promises ‘overall agenda’ at the agency won’t change much

Brendan Smialowski  AFP  Getty Images

Brendan Smialowski AFP Getty Images

Mink told DCist after Pruitt's resignation was announced, "It's not like I can take all the credit for this".

Pruitt submitted his resignation on Thursday after months of controversy over a complex web of ethics scandals related to the potential abuse of his EPA position, including questions over his government spending and management of aides. He had also enlisted his staff to contact conservative groups and companies to find a lucrative job for his unemployed wife, including emails seeking a Chick-fil-A franchise from a senior executive at the fast-food chain.

As Pruitt considered opening the loophole for glider truck manufacturers earlier this year, national health groups including the Allergy and Asthma Foundation of American and the American Lung Association signed a letter imploring the EPA chief to protect the public from the pollution-causing vehicles.

Pruitt denied the allegations against him in April and has said little of the swirling scandals since then.

A former Oklahoma attorney general close to the oil and gas industry, Pruitt had filed more than a dozen lawsuits against the agency he was picked to lead.

Administrator Scott Pruitt walks during a picnic for military families celebrating Independence Day at the White House in Washington, U.S., July 4, 2018.

Frankly, Pruitt's exit is long overdue.

For Carol McKinny, a member of Indivisible Lake County - a group that resists the Trump administration agenda on a number of issues by incentivizing local volunteers - Pruitt's departure is on some level a win for the nation.

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During his tenure Pruitt oversaw the largest regulatory rollback in EPA history.

Pruitt, who has done much to deregulate numerous Obama-era environmental rules, is also accused of using his sway to secure a six-figure job for his wife. Last year, a federal appeals court ruled that Pruitt overstepped his authority in trying to stall an Obama-era rule requiring companies to monitor and reduce methane leaks. Pruitt moved to roll back environmental regulations affecting many industries.

While Wheeler may find it hard to accumulate the same number of ridiculous scandals as his predecessor, many pointed to the fact that he hosted fundraisers for GOP senators while they were evaluating his nomination for deputy EPA administrator as clear evidence of his contempt for basic ethical standards. Wheeler is a former aide to Republican Senator James Inhofe, an outspoken climate change skeptic, and a former coal industry lobbyist.

An internal EPA email shows that the same month Wheeler was lobbying the Interior Department to shrink Bears Ears, his lobbying colleagues at Faegre-Baker-Daniels were over at the EPA discussing abandoned uranium mines and their cleanup contracts. Trump nominated Wheeler for deputy administrator the previous October.

One of the most visible examples of public pressure against Pruitt was when a woman named Kristin Mink, holding her child, confronted Pruitt inside a restaurant and asked for his resignation.

"With these Inhofe staff, you get all of the Pruitt policy and none of the Pruitt baggage", said an energy lobbyist and former congressional staffer.

Now, in Wheeler, Murray not only has one of his former lobbyists inside the EPA, he has them running it.

Some of the ethics accusations involved jobs for Pruitt's wife. In fact, Wheeler's years working in both the federal government and the private sector mean he could be even more effective than his predecessor.

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