Scott Pruitt – hunter of old Trump hotel mattresses, purveyor of Chick-fil-A jobs, connoisseur of soundproof booths and the head of the beleaguered Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) – has resigned. Announced, of course, via a tweet by the President of the United States, the reaction of anyone who quite likes clean air and water was pretty much the same: about damn time.
Pruitt was, on the surface, anti-scientific, but it’s more complex than that. Under the guise of a deregulation drive, but motivated by the interests of the fossil fuel industry, Pruitt proved to be the most destructive, regressive chief in the entire history of the EPA.
Although his tenure is also the shortest on record, his slinking off into the night isn’t exactly pure catharsis: his replacement, Andrew Wheeler, will carry on his toxic legacy, just without the scandals.
At the same time, Pruitt – a longtime legal and philosophical archenemy of the agency – managed to damage the EPA in unprecedented ways, with the full support of the White House. It’s now a shadow of its former self; a revolving door enterprise for the petrochemical industry that’s increasingly opaque and unscientific in its operations.
Now he’s toast, the myriad of ways in which the EPA was set ablaze from within are worth recalling. Let’s take a grim trip down memory lane. Scott Pruitt: This Is Your Life.
Pruitt's Destruction of the EPA’s Scientific Advisory Panels
Anyone unlucky enough to read Pruitt’s fawning resignation letter was reminded that he thought his actions, and those of the President, were guided by God. As it happens, during the press conference for arguably his most dangerous move at the EPA, the Bible was quoted.
Making an obscure reference to the Book of Joshua and about who one should serve, Pruitt announced that scientists on the EPA payroll cannot serve on the three major advisory groups at the EPA. Deployed under a veil of conflict of interest concerns (the irony), the decision was decried by every scientific agency going, with many pointing out that scientists at the EPA are clearly the best placed to advise it.
It was quickly seen for what it really was: a way to get industry darlings into positions of power at the agency, and to push politically problematic data about greenhouse gases and pollutants aside.