Embattled EPA head Scott Pruitt resigns amid ethics scandals

Soctt Pruitt EPA

WASHINGTON, DC – APRIL 26: EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt enters the hearing room prior to his testimony before the House Appropriations Committee during a hearing on the 2019 Fiscal Year EPA budget at the Capitol on April 26, 2018 in Washington, DC. The focus of nearly a dozen federal inquiries into his travel expenses, security […]

WASHINGTON (NBC News) — Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt, who has faced mounting public outcry over multiple ethics scandals, has resigned from his position, President Donald Trump announced Thursday.

In a pair of tweets, Trump said that Pruitt had offered his resignation and that the president had accepted.

“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,” Trump tweeted.

“The Senate confirmed Deputy at EPA, Andrew Wheeler, will…….on Monday assume duties as the acting Administrator of the EPA,” the president added.

As the head of the EPA, Pruitt was Trump’s point man for the administration’s plan to roll back environmental regulations, many of which were put in place by the Obama administration. He is the fourth member of Trump’s original cabinet to depart, following Veteran Affairs Secretary David Shulkin, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price.

In the year he has served as the Trump administration’s top environmental official, Pruitt moved to quash or replace numerous environmental regulations opposed by industry lobbyists while boosting the continued burning of fossil fuels, which scientists have concluded is the primary cause of climate change.

However, his tenure was quickly overshadowed by a number of controversies, which grew to include frequent first class travel and expensive trips at taxpayer expense, a sweetheart deal to rent a condo from the wife of an energy lobbyist who had business linked to the EPA, reports of big pay raises for top aides, reports that he sidelined staff who questioned him, and his use of EPA aides for personal tasks.

Before joining Trump’s administration, Pruitt served as Oklahoma’s attorney general and sued the agency he would later go on to run more than dozen times over the clean air and clean power rules enacted under the Obama administration.

Pruitt, however, was not the only EPA bigwig to face ethics questions. The agency’s No. 2, deputy administrator Wheeler was among 30 federal employees who were allegedly working in violation of Trump’s own executive order to keep the government free of former lobbyists.

Last month, government watchdog group Public Citizen filed an ethics complaint against Wheeler — who worked as a lobbyist for the coal industry as recently as May 2017, according to Bloomberg News— explaining that his employment violated Trump’s Executive Order No. 13770, which effectively barred former lobbyists from being appointed, without a waiver, to governmental positions in which they would manage issues they’d lobbied on within the past two years.

Wheeler never received such a waiver, Public Citizen said.

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