Good riddance to the ethically challenged Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt — who brandished his abuse of power as if it were a badge of honor.
Pruitt resigned Thursday under the weight of 14 federal and congressional investigations launched against him during just 18 months on the job. If that’s not some sort of record, it ought to be.
Republicans and Democrats, and ultimately President Trump, agreed that it was time for the vain Pruitt to go.
Pruitt resigned citing “the unrelenting attacks” on himself and his family, which “have taken a sizable toll on all of us.” But he brought much of that “toll” upon himself with his grandiose, entitled attitude. His No. 1 job, it seemed, was not serving the American people, but serving his own interests.
His overreach included an expensive soundproof booth in his office; first-class travel at taxpayers’ expense; using his staff to inquire about buying a Chick-fil-A franchise for his wife; an expensive 24-hour security detail; the quest to buy a mattress from a Trump hotel; and a deal to rent a ritzy condo in Washington for $50-a-night — not to mention the most recent revelation by CNN: that he purged his public calendar to hide his meetings.
However, Pruitt, a climate-change skeptic, seemed perfect for the top job at the EPA, at least in the Trump administration. He embarked upon the biggest rollback of protective regulations in the EPA’s history. Pruitt reversed, delayed or blocked several Obama-era rules. Among them, those aimed at mitigating global-warming pollution from car and power plants. He pushed Trump to withdraw the United States from the Paris Climate Accord, crafted in 2015.
Now the obvious question is, with Pruitt’s departure will our natural resources be better protected? In particular, will Florida’s coastline be spared oil drilling, will our Everglades be further protected from phosphorus water discharges?
Whomever President Trump names to permanently succeed the money-grubbing Pruitt will be no more inclined to hold the line on the destruction of America’s natural assets. Rather, the new chief will continue to eliminate the many EPA guidelines that have kept oil drills out of protected lands and kept the air and waterways freer of pollution and ensuring private industry was accountable.
Pruitt was one of the most effective implementers of the president’s agenda. He was among the original Cabinet members who was assigned to head a department they loathed. Their job was to dismantle it. As a former Oklahoma attorney general with ties to the oil and gas industry, Pruitt had filed more than a dozen lawsuits against the EPA when he was picked to lead it.
Pruitt was doing an “exceptional” job. Despite the ethical transgressions and the numerous investigations, Trump had his back. It was only when the fact that Pruitt had urged the president to fire Attorney General Jeff Sessions and appoint him instead, did the president appear to realize Pruitt was an embarrassing liability. Still Trump praised Pruitt on his way out: “Within the agency Scott has done an outstanding job, and I will always be thankful to him for this.”
Unfortunately his departure will not derail the administration’s anti-environment campaign. The new boss might be less ethically tone-deaf, but, basically, will be as bad as the old boss.