Scandal-plagued EPA head Scott Pruitt has been replaced by a coal lobbyist

One scandal too many?
One scandal too many?
Image: AP Photo/Cliff Owen
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Environmental Protection Agency secretary Scott Pruitt, known for his lavish expenditures and misuse of power, resigned today. In a letter addressed to Donald Trump, Pruitt cited “unrelenting” and “unprecedented” attacks on him and his family.

Pruitt was publicly asked to resign this week by a schoolteacher in a DC restaurant, an exchange that was videotaped and has been viewed over 500,000 times on Facebook. “We deserve to have somebody at the EPA who actually does protect our environment, somebody who believes in climate change and takes it seriously for the benefit of all of us, including our children,” Kristin Mink told Pruitt as he was having lunch at a downtown restaurant. “I would urge you to resign before your scandals push you out.”

Recent reports allege Pruitt asked his young staffers to pay for his hotel stays and then didn’t reimburse them, and to find a $200,000 job for his wife. He has also been accused of using his security detail to track down fancy hand lotion. Pruitt spent hundreds of thousands of dollars of taxpayer money on special security features and private flights.

Replaced by Andrew Wheeler

Pruitt’s replacement, Andrew Wheeler, is a former coal industry lobbyist with Faegre Baker Daniels who spent nearly a decade trying to get Congress to pass industry friendly laws. He also served as the vice president of the Washington Coal Club, a group of businessmen who meets monthly on Capitol Hill. Previously, Wheeler served as an aide to Republican senator James Inhofe from Oklahoma, who once presented a snowball on the Senate floor in an attempt to prove that climate change was a hoax.

Wheeler was confirmed as the EPA’s deputy secretary in mid-April. He will become acting head of the agency on July 9, Trump tweeted.

Pruitt made no mention of the scandals riddling his tenure in his resignation letter, which was made public Thursday afternoon. Pruitt, who was a member of the White House’s evangelical Christian bible study group, said in his farewell that he believes Trump is president “today because of God’s providence,” and that he believes the same “providence brought me into your service.”

“My desire in service to you has always been to bless you as you make important decisions for the American people,” he wrote.

Pruitt may have been the worst EPA chief ever, some believe. “Scott Pruitt will go down in history as a disgrace to the office of EPA administrator,” said Ken Cook, the head of the Environmental Working Group, a consumer advocacy group. “He will forever be associated with extraordinary ethical corruption and the abuse of power for petty personal enrichments.”