Scott Pruitt may turn out to be a seminal case in the study of crisis management: Just how bad does an exec’s public image have to get before they finally resign? Pruitt, the former Oklahoma state senator and attorney general, lasted a lot longer than seemed possible, given his reputation for liberal personal use of taxpayer funds and coziness with lobbyists.
Despite Pruitt’s blowing public money on everything from over-the-top security details to luxury fountain pens, it took till today for president Trump to announce Pruitt’s resignation on Twitter. The reason Pruitt persisted so long is the same reason why his environmentalist foes shouldn’t break out the organic Champagne: The administrator was doing exactly what his boss wanted.
Pruitt went from suing the EPA (14 times) as state attorney general in the Obama years to heading it under Trump. Although critics might prefer to say “beheading it,” with staff, budgets, and programs severely cut. Through attrition, Pruitt and Trump aimed to cut EPA staff in half by 2021. Trump also aims to cut EPA’s budget by up to 30%–from $8.2 billion to $5.7 billion–something he could come close to with the 2019 federal budget.
Whole programs have also been cut or drastically shrunken, including the CO2-fighting clean power plan, stricter auto emission standards, and Great Lakes and Chesapeake Bay restoration programs. The group Save the US EPA keeps a roster of endangered programs.
…on Monday assume duties as the acting Administrator of the EPA. I have no doubt that Andy will continue on with our great and lasting EPA agenda. We have made tremendous progress and the future of the EPA is very bright!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 5, 2018
Don’t expect Pruitt’s departure to slow this progress. His designated successor, Andrew Wheeler, is at least as firmly tied to the carbon-based energy industry as Pruitt. Wheeler spent 14 years working for Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe, the most ardent climate science denier; he’s also worked as a lobbyist for the coal industry, reports Mother Jones. The clearest indication of business as usual comes from Trump’s own tweet announcing Wheeler’s appointment as acting Administrator of EPA: “I have no doubt that Andy will continue on with our great and lasting EPA agenda.”