Why EPA’s Scott Pruitt had to go (and what to expect from the EPA now)

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from FoxNews,

Why did Scott Pruitt, the embattled administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, resign Thursday after surviving months of unfavorable news stories involving his controversial actions and allegations that that he had behaved unethically – and possibly illegally – in office?

First, it’s always good for a White House when a resignation breaks over a holiday period and attention is focused elsewhere. But more importantly, pressure rose for Pruitt to step down when his travails shifted from the merely humiliating to potential legal violations.

Earlier Thursday, two Democratic House members had demanded the EPA’s inspector general probe whether Pruitt might have hidden or falsified meetings or talks he had with corporate representatives.

Similar concerns had helped push a previous EPA administrator out the door in 2012. Lisa Jackson, President Obama’s first choice to head the EPA, had been expected to continue serving into his second term. But on December 13, 2012 the EPA’s assistant inspector general announced he would conduct an audit into Jackson’s use of private email accounts under the alias “Richard Windsor” to conduct official government business.

Chris Horner of the Competitive Enterprise Institute had brought a lawsuit to make 12,000 of Jackson’s “alias” emails public. Before that could happen, Jackson announced she would be leaving office on December 27, 2012 – apparently with the strong private encouragement of the White House.

It was the fear of what the inspector general’s report might unearth that prompted Pruitt’s sudden resignation. He was already facing 14 other probes looking into his office spending, use of official planes and ethics.

So where does the EPA go from here? The job of administrator will be taken over on at least an interim basis by Andrew Wheeler, a veteran of the George W. Bush administration, who was confirmed in April as deputy administrator.

Although Wheeler was opposed by many environmentalists, he won the support of three Senate Democrats face re-election in November: Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Joe Donnelly of Indiana.

EPA watchers say that Wheeler and Assistant Administrator Bill Wehrum will carry on Pruitt’s agenda, especially his three top accomplishments – rolling back the Obama administration’s climate regulations, expanding the transparency of the science used to make EPA rulings, and stopping mandated increases in fuel economy for automobile fleets.

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