On Thursday, President Trump tweeted that Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator Scott Pruitt had resigned.
Pruitt was considered one of Trump’s most loyal appointees, but the former Oklahoma Attorney General has made headlines in recent months with repeated scandals over extravagant spending. Pruitt reportedly used funds from the agency to purchase hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of tactical pants and other safety-related items. He also used agency funds to help his wife find a job and even help him buy a used Trump hotel mattress. Questions about who promoted Pruitt and how the raises were distributed also caused significant damage to Pruitt’s public image. Thirteen different federal investigations had been opened into the administrator’s conduct.
However, Trump’s tweet did not mention anything from this Thursday afternoon. “I have accepted the resignation of Scott Pruitt as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency,” the… President tweeted. “Within the Agency, Scott has done an outstanding job and I will always be grateful to him for this. The Senate has confirmed that EPA Representative Andrew Wheeler will…”
A second tweet continued: “…take up duties as acting administrator of the EPA on Monday. I have no doubt that Andy will continue with our great and lasting EPA agenda. We have made tremendous progress and the future of the EPA is very bright !”
Ars contacted the EPA to confirm the resignation. Spokeswoman Molly Block made no statement, but referred back to the president’s tweet.
Before joining the EPA as a deputy administrator, Andrew Wheeler worked as a lobbyist for Robert Murray, president of Murray Energy Corporation, one of the largest coal companies in the US. Murray has also donated significant amounts of money to Trump and is a vocal critic of any regulation of the mining and coal industries.
News of Pruitt’s resignation comes just as the EPA has finished drafting a possible replacement for the Clean Power Plan according to The New York Times. The concept has not been made public, but it was described in detail to the Time by “industry officials who worked closely with the agency to shape the rule.”
Block confirmed to Ars that “the Agency is in the process of developing a proposal regarding the Clean Power Plan.”
“That proposal would be reviewed by the various agencies before the administrator is signed and made publicly available for review and comment,” Block added.
The Obama-era Clean Power Plan would have required states to cut their energy-related emissions to 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2035. The rapid shutdown of coal-fired power plants seemed to bring this goal within reach for most states, despite the Trump’s decision to end the settlement last spring.
But the Clean Power Plan had already gone through the process of becoming a law, anchored by a so-called “danger finding” by the agency, which now requires the EPA to something in response to climate change. The EPA considered challenging the finding of danger so it could drop energy sector regulation altogether. But the Time says the EPA’s draft rule allows the agency to avoid protracted legal battles by regulating coal-fired power plants very lightly.
“The proposal, according to industry advocates familiar with the plan, would recommend regulating emissions from individual coal-fired plants, which would call for modest upgrades, such as improving efficiency or replacing fuel,” the paper wrote.
The details of the plan are expected to be sent to the president in the coming days, according to the Time.
While replacing the Clean Power Plan with weaker regulation could be a quick way to avoid lengthy legal action over the threat finding, Robert Murray, the longtime boss of the new acting administrator, recently wrote to the president, urging him to challenge the threat finding.