On Thursday, Scott Pruitt stepped down as EPA director after public calls for his resignation due to his continuous ethical violations.
Pruitt, who was also known for dismantling Obama-era environmental policies, will be replaced temporarily with deputy administrator Andrew Wheeler, a former coal lobbyist who will likely continue Pruitt’s harmful work.
Murray Energy, the self-proclaimed largest coal mining company in the United States, was one of Wheeler’s main clients in the private sector, where he was known for fighting against environmental policy.
Pruitt said the "the unrelenting attacks" on himself and his family “have taken a sizable toll on all of us." While public discussions of his decisions and calls for his resignation were reaching a boiling point, the piling controversies were likely the larger reason. If Pruitt had not resigned himself, a full investigation into his actions likely would have made him eventually.
Just this week, new details emerged that Pruitt asked staffers to pay for his hotel rooms with their personal credit cards. Although that is unethical enough on its own, he also didn't reimburse one of the employees promptly, leaving them with an outstanding balance of $600. The Washington Post also reports that Pruitt accepted help from an employee when looking for a job with an annual $200,000 salary for his wife and told an employee, despite their initial rejections, to take first-class travel despite recent controversies surrounding his own air travel costs.
Pressure increased heavily after a video of a mother confronting him in a restaurant went viral last week. While holding her 2-year-old child, she stood over the former director's table and said, "This is my son. He loves animals. He loves clean air. He loves clean water ... So I would urge you to resign before your scandals push you out.”
Before the most recent allegations came out, Pruitt was already under investigation for misusing money. According to Axios, he has spent $3 million of taxpayer money on a security detail three times larger than his predecessor’s, $105,000 on first-class air travel, $15,000 on fountain pens, and $43,000 on a private phone booth, among other bizarre expenditures.
But the controversies surrounding Pruitt’s judgment aren’t limited to money.
He once asked an employee to find him a used Trump hotel mattress as part of their job. A lobbyist let him rent a D.C. bedroom for an insanely low price. He once took his son to a Kentucky basketball game with tickets from a coal executive. He tried to leverage his influence to get his wife a job at Chick-Fil-A. Despite being told no by the White House, he gave two staffers unnecessary raises and later lied that he knew about it. To top it all off, he was known for using the flashing lights on his motorcade to get out of traffic.
Miraculously, that’s not even a comprehensive list of the scandals under Pruitt’s belt, nor does it include any of the controversies from his previous positions.
Even after his resignation, Trump stayed positive about Pruitt, tweeting out, “I have accepted the resignation of Scott Pruitt as the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. Within the Agency Scott has done an outstanding job, and I will always be thankful to him for this.”
This comes as no surprise. Their relationship was so strong that Pruitt felt comfortable asking Trump to fire Attorney General Jeff Sessions so that he could have the job.
As a climate change denier and a coal industry supporter, Pruitt should have never been running the EPA, and as Wheeler moves into the position, the harmful environmental impacts of this administration will likely continue.
Hopefully, though, this extra blemish in Trump's tenure will help during the 2020 presidential elections and that the next EPA administrator will be able to reverse the negative effects of Trump-era environmental policy.