US environment agency chief Scott Pruitt quits amid ethics scandals

Image: Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt tes
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt testifies about the fiscal year 2018 budget during a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington on June 27, 2017. Copyright Saul Loeb AFP - Getty Images file
By Dartunorro Clark and Adam Edelman with NBC News Politics
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As the head of the EPA, Pruitt was Trump's point man for the administration's plan to roll back environmental regulations.


Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt, who has faced mounting public outcry over multiple ethics scandals, has resigned from his position, President Donald Trump announced Thursday.

In a pair of tweets, Trump said that Pruitt had offered his resignation and that the president had accepted.

"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," Trump tweeted.

"The Senate confirmed Deputy at EPA, Andrew Wheeler, will…....on Monday assume duties as the acting Administrator of the EPA," the president added.

Despite a rash of ethics scandals surrounding Pruitt, Trump had repeatedly defended his embattled EPA chief. In recent weeks, however, White House officials had indicated that Trump's patience could be wearing thin.

On Tuesday, White House spokesman Hogan Gidley called the increasing reports about Pruitt "troublesome" and "something we're taking a look at."

Then, earlier Thursday afternoon, yet another story broke about Pruitt, when The New York Times reported that a senior scheduler for Pruitt had been fired after she questioned why people in Pruitt's office were retroactively deleting meetings from the calendar.

As the head of the EPA, Pruitt was Trump's point man for the administration's plan to roll back environmental regulations, many of which were put in place by the Obama administration.

In the year he has served as the Trump administration's top environmental official, Pruitt moved to quash or replace numerous environmental regulations opposed by industry lobbyists while boosting the continued burning of fossil fuels, which scientists have concluded is the primary cause of climate change.

However, his tenure was quickly overshadowed by a number of controversies, which grew to include frequent first class travel and expensive trips at taxpayer expense, a sweetheart deal to rent a condo from the wife of an energy lobbyist who had business linked to the EPA, reports of big pay raises for top aides, reports that he sidelined staff who questioned him, and his use of EPA aides for personal tasks.

Before joining Trump's administration, Pruitt served as Oklahoma's attorney general and sued the agency he would later go on to run more than dozen times over the clean air and clean power rules enacted under the Obama administration.

Pruitt, however, was not the only EPA bigwig to face ethics questions. The agency's No. 2, deputy administrator Wheeler, who Trump said Thursday will assume the role of acting administrator, was among 30 federal employees who were allegedly working in violation of Trump's own executive order to keep the government free of former lobbyists.

Government watchdog group Public Citizen filed an ethics complaint against Wheeler — who worked as a lobbyist for the coal industry as recently as May 2017, according to Bloomberg News — explaining that his employment violated Trump's Executive Order No. 13770, which effectively barred former lobbyists from being appointed, without a waiver, to governmental positions in which they would manage issues they'd lobbied on within the past two years.

Wheeler never received such a waiver, Public Citizen said.

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