Pruitt: The EPA and the damage done
Scott Pruitt is “arguably the most corrupt Cabinet officer in modern American history,” said Jamelle Bouie in Slate.com. The newly resigned Environmental Protection Agency administrator’s “extensive and almost unbelievable” list of alleged transgressions includes a $3 million taxpayer-funded security detail, a $43,000 soundproof phone booth, over $160,000 in first-class plane travel, the use of top aides to help his wife find a job, and the rental of part of a Washington, D.C., condo from a fossil fuel lobbyist for a mere $50 a night. The most recent revelation was that he may have violated federal records laws by keeping several calendars to hide his meetings with industry executives. For months, the Left’s most hated Cabinet official seemed to enjoy “favored-child status” in this administration, no matter what he did, said Frank Bruni in The New York Times. But an irritated President Trump finally forced him out—not because he “was appalled at Pruitt’s behavior itself,” but because it generated too much negative press.
Pruitt leaves behind a devastating environmental legacy, said Umair Irfan in Vox.com. Openly hostile to the EPA’s regulatory mission, he ignored scientific recommendations to ban toxic pesticides and other chemicals, lifted industrial air- and water-pollution controls, purged advisory panels of scientists, and widened loopholes for “heavy polluter” diesel trucks. He even scrubbed the phrase “climate change” from the EPA website. Pruitt obviously had to go, said John Fund in FoxNews.com, but scaling back “the bureaucratic blob that is the EPA” is very much in line with the president’s deregulation agenda. That agenda will be taken up by deputy administrator Andrew Wheeler, a former coal industry lobbyist. Now free from the scandals surrounding Pruitt, “Trump has unburdened himself of a political liability.”
“Pruitt’s critics will miss him,” said Robinson Meyer in TheAtlantic.com. With his soundproof phone booth and shameless squandering of taxpayer dollars, he was a cartoonish villain easy for Democrats to target. Wheeler, on the other hand, is a longtime Washington insider who is expected to “run a more careful, by-the-book process,” fashioning pro-industry policies more likely to stand up in court. He’ll fade into the background, while dismantling “America’s last protection against toxic chemicals, poisonous water, and an abundance of heat-trapping air. Meanwhile, the planet continues to warm.”