Worry and relief at EPA after Pruitt's resignation

Scott Pruitt resigns from EPA

Scott Pruitt resigns from EPA

In addition to criticism of Pruitt's policies, the EPA investigated at least 10 threats of violence against Pruitt and his family over a six-month period, The Times reported in March.

The senator was also a supporter of Pruitt, according to the Times, and Wheeler's rise demonstrates the growing influence of a group of former Inhofe staff members across the Trump administration and Washington including Ryan Jackson, who is now the EPA's chief of staff. Chmielewski also leveled new claims against the administrator, including "improper retaliation against EPA staff".

Yet, were many of these Republicans not facing a tough Congressional election this year, it's unclear how long the embarrassing scandals would have continued to pile up.

Among other complaints, Pruitt is alleged to have pushed his aides to secure a $200,000 political-fundraising job for his wife; required staffers to perform non-official work; and insisted on traveling first-class or via private jet despite aides' objections.

Bennett says the dynamic of the voting public has changed since Pruitt's reign as the state's attorney general.

It should be said that the group has had no problem in issuing critiques of Pruitt in the past, most recently detailing the reasons why Congress should demand his accountability.

"It is extremely hard for me to cease serving you in this role first because I count it a blessing to be serving you in any capacity, but also, because of the transformative work that is occurring", Pruitt wrote.

"Scott Pruitt's reign of venality is finally over".

He's not an outsider - the Union of Concerned Scientists fears him more than it did Pruitt because his experience from having worked at the agency makes him "a formidable opponent with intimate knowledge of the agency's programs and regulations". His main client was the largest coal producer in the US. Last year, a federal appeals court ruled that Pruitt overstepped his authority in trying to stall an Obama-era rule requiring companies to monitor and reduce methane leaks.

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Deputy director Andrew Wheeler will take his place.

"The electorate in Oklahoma has changed a lot lately", said Bennett.

An internal EPA email shows that the same month Wheeler was lobbying the Interior Department to shrink Bears Ears, his lobbying colleagues at Faegre-Baker-Daniels were over at the EPA discussing abandoned uranium mines and their cleanup contracts.

"Pruitt and Wheeler are creating a loophole for super polluting freight trucks that will fill our children's lungs with toxic diesel pollution, ignoring public comments from moms and leading businesses across the country", Vickie Patton, general counsel for the Environmental Defense Fund, told the New York Times.

Hurlbut, who has first-hand knowledge of Wheeler's work, said he disagrees with the acting EPA chair on policy matters, but acknowledged that Wheeler is generally well respected.

Some of the ethics accusations against Pruitt involved jobs for his wife.

Wheeler, when asked during a confirmation hearing about his own position, proved more circumspect in reply.

One of the energy companies that the new head of the Environmental Protection Agency worked for as a lobbyist is seeking contracts from the agency, raising questions among environmentalists about whether he can put his past behind him as he becomes the nation's top environmental protector.

Opponents accused Pruitt of meeting more with industrial and conservative political leaders than with ordinary people, and of shutting out all but a close circle of top aides within EPA.

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