EPA Head Scott Pruitt Resigns Amidst Ethics Scandals

By Indri Schaelicke | United States

In a tweet Thursday, President Trump revealed that the Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt had resigned.

Several ethics controversies plagued the EPA director’s time in office. Mr. Pruitt’s inspector generals were still investigating some of these scandals.

Scott Pruitt’s Travel Funds

The first of the Administrator’s controversies while in office came to the attention of the public this past fall. In August 2017, Congress became aware of Pruitt’s potential misuse of travel funds. Allegedly, he was spending these funds on first class flights to his home state of Oklahoma.

Travel records obtained from a Freedom of Information Act request made by the watchdog group Environmental Integrity Project show that Pruitt spent 48 of 92 days in March, April and May 2017 traveling. 43 of those days were on trips that made stops in his home state, Oklahoma.

Another controversy arose when it was revealed that Scott Pruitt would frequently have his staffers make hotel reservations on their personal credit cards. On occasion, he did not reimburse them for the expenses. When he did, it would often be after a period of several weeks.

Further Scandals

Pruitt would also often enlist his staff to run personal errands for him. On one occasion, his staff drove him around to find a lotion from a Ritz-Carlton hotel. He also had members of his staff search for jobs for his wife. Mr. Pruitt’s use of his staff to fulfill personal tasks for him concerned many.

The former head of the EPA also had a history of failing to keep sound records on his meetings and official business concerning his agency. Kevin Chmielewski, former Deputy Chief of Staff Operations for Pruitt revealed that Pruitt and his aides would regularly hold meetings, at which they decided what information they would and would not release to the public. Essentially, the meetings were meant to categorize information from other meetings.

Moreover, at the time of his resignation, Congress was looking into Pruitt’s alleged use of four separate email addresses at the EPA. It is unclear if the agency searches all four email accounts when asked to produce public records.

Scott Pruitt also rented a condo from the wife of a lobbyist who he had been meeting with at the time of his residence there. A family friend of the lobbyist was being considered for a position at the EPA during the same time.

The Future of the EPA

EPA Deputy Administrator Andrew Wheeler will fill the now vacant seat. Pruitt, a vocal skeptic of climate change, worked to repeal many regulations put in place to slow climate change. He had been integral to the President’s campaign to cut back regulations.

While Mr. Wheeler will also work to roll back many environmental regulations, he is more likely to avoid media attention. His reputation is not one of seeking the public eye. This may aid him in being a more successful EPA head.

The Inspector General’s office of the EPA has also announced that all investigations into Mr. Pruitt’s activities that are currently open will be continue as planned.

As the EPA progresses forward after this change in leadership at the top, expect it to continue to cut down on regulations, perhaps at an even greater pace.

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