Late on an otherwise quiet Thursday afternoon, President Trump announced on Twitter that he accepted the resignation of his embattled Environmental Protection Agency chief, Scott Pruitt. “Within the Agency Scott has done an outstanding job, and I will always be thankful to him for this,” Trump wrote, expressing confidence that Pruitt’s legacy would protected by his deputy and successor, Andrew Wheeler. “We have made tremendous progress and the future of the EPA is very bright!” the president tweeted.
Bipartisan watchdog Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility in Washington was among the first to react to the news, putting out a one-word statement on the long-overdue decision: “Good.”
The overwhelming reaction to Pruitt’s departure – from Democrats as well as Republicans who once supported him – was that his resignation should have come a lot sooner. “It’s about time,” Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH) said Thursday. Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) expressed a similar sentiment: “There have been too many ethical lapses under Administrator Pruitt’s watch and this decision is in the best interests of the agency and our country.” Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA), who voted to confirm Pruitt, declared, “Fewer things are more important for government officials than maintaining public trust. Administrator Pruitt, through his own actions, lost that trust.”
Pruitt’s decision to resign came after what seemed like an unending series of personal corruption scandals, any one of which might have ended the career of another president’s cabinet member. The reaction to Pruitt’s resignation was muted among his closest allies and fiercest defenders – people who have have been somewhat fatigued by Pruitt’s months of non-stop public drama. Myron Ebell, who as an adviser to Trump’s transition, helped orchestrate Pruitt’s appointment, thanked the former attorney general of Oklahoma for “his outstanding service as EPA administrator,” adding, “we regret that personal troubles got in the way.”
Sen. Jim Inhofe, a friend and champion of Pruitt’s from his home state of Oklahoma, said Thursday that Pruitt “did great work to reduce the nation’s regulatory burdens” during his tenure at the EPA. Both Ebell and Inhofe applauded Pruitt’s work to pull out of the Paris Climate Accords.
Environmentalists, Democrats and others accepting of the scientific consensus known as climate change welcomed the news of the EPA administrator’s departure. “Scott Pruitt’s reign of venality is finally over,” Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-MA) declared Thursday. “He made swamp creatures blush with his shameless excesses.”
“Good riddance,” said Eric Schaeffer, Executive Director of the Environmental Integrity Project and former Director of Civil Enforcement at the EPA. “The worst EPA administrator in the history of the agency,” Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) added.
“Unusually greedy and shamelessly corrupt,” Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI) said. “But his worst transgression was that he systematically worked on behalf of polluters to poison our air and our water and make climate change worse.”
“Scott Pruitt’s petty grifting and pervasive corruption are known far and wide, but it will take generations to fully reverse the widespread harm he inflicted on our air, our water and the health of our people,” said Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-MD), the top Democrat on the House oversight and government reform committee, which is investigating Pruitt’s spending and ethical failings as EPA chief.
The Environmental Defense Fund offered a eulogy for both Pruitt’s tenure and the damage he’s done: “Scott Pruitt’s reckless tenure at EPA is over, but the damage will be lasting and the threat of additional harm to public health and the environment remains grave,” the group said.