After months of scandal after scandal, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, has resigned.
As you likely know, Scott Pruitt is a climate change denier who directly oversaw efforts to erase climate change data from the EPA’s own website. Despite that, some traces still persist, as I pointed out in a blog post earlier today about how heat records were broken all across the Northern Hemisphere this past week.
We don’t often say this, but the science is settled when it comes to climate change. We’ve seen and measured the effects already. We know it’s affecting birds. We know it’s affecting plants. And we know that the increase in frequency and severity of extreme weather events is due to climate change.
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And the scandals seemed to have their own scandals, as the New York Times pointed out:
Mr. Pruitt is the subject of at least 13 federal investigations, and a government watchdog agency concluded that he had broken the law with his purchase of a $43,000 secure telephone booth. He was also under investigation for his 2017 lease of a bedroom in a condominium linked to a Canadian energy company’s powerful Washington lobbying firm, and for accusations that he demoted or sidelined E.P.A. employees who questioned his actions.
Because this is 2018 and nothing really seems to matter anymore, the announcement came in a pair of tweets this afternoon from Donald Trump:
…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
The “outstanding job” is a reference to Pruitt’s efforts to deregulate the Environmental Protection Agency – the agency tasked with things like ensuring our drinking water stays safe – in favor of big businesses. And of course, president Trump himself was happy to have a climate change denier heading the EPA, as we recall from his tweet back in December:
In the East, it could be the COLDEST New Year’s Eve on record. Perhaps we could use a little bit of that good old Global Warming that our Country, but not other countries, was going to pay TRILLIONS OF DOLLARS to protect against. Bundle up!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 29, 2017
Prior to his appointment, Pruitt had sued the EPA countless times. While head of the EPA, he played a pivotal role in convincing president Trump to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement, too.
While I’m sure many will cheer the ousting of Pruitt as the EPA’s head, the deputy administrator, Andrew Wheeler, will become acting administrator. And that has its own special set of problems.
Think of it this way: Wheeler is to Pruitt what Mike Pence is to Donald Trump. Trump is undeniably bad at accomplishing much of anything. He’s not playing 23-dimensional chess. There is no plan with Trump. There’s no bigger picture with him. He is the picture. He wants whatever creates the most amount of controversy to distract people from the things they should be paying attention to. In a way, it’s awfully similar to Putin’s global diplomatic strategy.
While Trump and Pruitt consistently get themselves into completely preventable controversies (and their narcissistic tendencies cloud their ability to accomplish their goals), Wheeler/Pence are much more intelligent and careful with how they operate. Their worldviews are still shitty, but they’re more capable of enacting their shitty worldviews.
Wheeler is also a former coal lobbyist. So, there’s that.
So while we might be quick to cheer the loss of Pruitt at the EPA and consider it a victory, now is the time to be even more vigilant. Instead of having an unqualified dolt at the helm, now we have a person who is capable of actually accomplishing the things he wants to do.