After a tenure at the Environmental Protection Agency marked by scandal and extravagances, Scott Pruitt is leaving for greener pastures.
…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!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 5, 2018
Pruitt had, according to CNN, recently asked Trump to fire Jeff Sessions and appoint him acting Attorney General for the better part of a year before he would leave to run for office in Oklahoma. While Sessions wasn’t fired and replaced with Pruitt, there is no reason to doubt the often-embattled former EPA head wouldn’t still seek Oklahoma office.
Pruitt was rarely not involved in some manner of scandal in his time at EPA, from his condo provided by a lobbyist to his expensive tastes to feed his need of “security“. He is facing more than a dozen investigations by federal officials, including the Offices of Special Counsel and Inspector General and House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
More recently, Pruitt’s use of “secret calendars” and clandestine meeting with industry regulated by EPA has drawn attention of members of Congress who called for an investigation into any records withheld or destroyed as part of this practice.
While Pruitt is likely heading to elected office in Oklahoma, his deputy Andrew Wheeler will serve as the Acting Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.
Wheeler recently worked as a lobbyist for the coal industry, specifically Murray Energy which made headlines by suing HBO comedian John Oliver for defamation and losing handily. Wheeler has also served as Vice President for the Washington Coal Club, a trade and advocacy group for coal energy.
Where Pruitt was a clear Washington outsider, Wheeler has a long record of knowing how things operate inside the beltway and using that knowledge to help advance the cause of coal.
Wheeler is not the only name being batted about already to replace Pruitt, however. In fact, Wheeler has said he doesn’t even want the job. The New York Times mentioned possible replacement Donald Van der Vaart instead.
Van der Vaart is a former lead regulator in North Carolina who currently serves on the EPA Scientific Advisory Board. One thing he has in common with many Trump appointees is a history of undermining the very thing he’s in charge of, in this case North Carolina’s Department of Environmental Quality.
While EPA prepares for new leadership, one thing can be assumed no matter who is tapped to lead the agency – that Scott Pruitt will need to dupe someone else into buying him a $40,000 phone booth next time. And that someone else may be the people of Oklahoma.