Pro-polluter Scott Pruitt Resigns Amid Flurry of Ethics Scandals

The EPA administrator’s exit is a win for people and the planet.
Credit: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

The EPA administrator’s exit is a win for people and the planet.

Ending what will go down as the worst era in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s history so far, Scott Pruitt resigned today, ending a tumultuous few months of ethics scandals and a year of egregious anti-environment rollbacks.

“Ethics matter. So does a commitment to the EPA’s central mission,” says Rhea Suh, president of NRDC, which launched a Fire Scott Pruitt campaign in March to fight the astonishing slew of environmental assaults by the EPA administrator. “Pruitt failed miserably on both counts.”

A series of questionable actions came into light recently, including Pruitt’s demands for first-class travel and security at taxpayers’ expense, a condo deal through the wife of a top energy lobbyist, and the firing of employees who questioned such behavior.

In his tenure, Pruitt acted as a pro-industry puppet, overhauling and weakening key protections for our air, water, and health. Firmly on the wrong side of history, Pruitt was a notorious climate change denier, using propaganda tactics to downplay the consensus around manmade global warming. He was also a foe to science, often sidelining the important research of career EPA officials when making policy decisions.

However, we’re not in the clear yet. If someone like Pruitt was allowed to take the EPA’s reins under this administration, another pro-polluter could be taking over. The agency's deputy administrator, Andrew Wheeler, is a former coal-industry lobbyist. “Wheeler is equally unqualified to serve as the nation’s chief environmental steward," says Ana Unruh Cohen, managing director for government affairs at NRDC. "Like Pruitt, this veteran coal lobbyist has shown only disdain for the EPA’s vital mission to protect Americans’ health and our environment. Make no mistake: We’ll fight Wheeler’s pollution agenda with the same vigor as we did Pruitt’s.”

There is a long road ahead, in both undoing Pruitt’s work and moving forward to face the next generation’s biggest environmental challenges. “If his successor also puts the interests of polluters ahead of protecting public health,” Suh says, “he or she will encounter the same wall of resistance—and meet the same fate.”

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