Critics Fear EPA Chief Pruitt's Replacement

FILE - In this Thursday, June 1, 2017 file photo, President Donald Trump listens as EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt speaks in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, a Democratic member of the U.S. Senate committee that conducted confirmation hearings for Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Pruitt, said in a letter Tuesday, July 18, 2017, that Oklahoma's former attorney general presented "inconsistent and contradictory statements" to the panel. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

And now, for some semi-straight news:

With Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt possibly on the way out, some critics of the official brace for an even more offensive figure in Pruitt’s likely successor, Andrew R. Wheeler.


Under Pruitt’s leadership, the EPA has allowed lobbyists to inform regulation of their respective areas, leading environmental activist and founder of NextGen America, Tom Steyer, to brand him “the worst EPA administrator in history.”

The Trump appointee has overseen deregulation regarding vehicle fuel efficiency, water quality, industrial discharge, and chemical safety.

Following the recent resignation of several staff members, Pruitt was reportedly on the verge of being fired. An Axios report Sunday claimed he is now “paranoid and isolated,” disliked by employees and, increasingly, President Trump — who is growing tired of negative press incurred in part by frivolous spending.

Pruitt has come under considerable fire due to his use of taxpayer funds for personal benefit. According to the New York Daily News, since February of 2017, he has spent more than $105,000 on first-class airfare alone. During a recent trip to Italy, his bill for hotels, food, commercial flight and a military jet reached $90,000.

Wheeler, who was made deputy administrator in April, previously worked for the EPA and climate change opponent Sen. James Inhofe, R-Ok. In 2009, he became an energy lobbyist for people such as coal tycoon Robert E. Murray, an environmental policy advisor to Trump. He also represented the uranium mining company Energy Fuels Resources.


Some seasoned EPA officials view Wheeler as an upgrade. John J. O’Grady, a labor union president and engineer in the Chicago office, contends Wheeler “won’t be as devastating as Pruitt,” and that he will at minimum not abuse EPA funds for his personal enjoyment. “[He] may be a little better at the bureaucracy of the agency,” O’Grady said.

Rep. Don Beyer, D-V., however, is less optimistic. He explained to Yahoo News, “If Pruitt is fired, I will be happy to see him go. But I will remain focused on getting the EPA to return to its mission of protecting public health.” Beyer added that, if Wheeler ascends to director, “his actions will be closely scrutinized, and…held accountable by Congress.”

Keith Gaby, communications director for the Environmental Defense Fund, fears the worst, lamenting, “Wheeler is truly dangerous because he’s a lifelong insider and lobbyist — so he knows how to work the system. He’s the man in a gray suit who will be smart enough not to fly first class, or…do any of the glaringly sleazy things Pruitt has done. But he will quietly eviscerate the clean air and water safeguards that his clients have long paid him to oppose.”


All of this, of course, may be incidental to report; as per usual, Democrats aren’t going to embrace Trump’s choice for the position, regardless. If Malia or Sasha Obama marries Chelsea Clinton, and if their adopted transgender child “of color” rises to the rank of Islamic EPA Director under The Donald, then maybe. Otherwise, stand by for a collective and terrible shriek.


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