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Scott Pruitt resigns as head of the Environmental Protection Agency

Scott Pruitt speaks at CPAC 2017. ( Photo: Gage Skidmore / Wikimedia Commons )

On July 5, hours after attending the White House’s annual Fourth of July picnic, Scott Pruitt announced his resignation from his position as Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency amid numerous ethics and spending scandals. Pruitt, in a letter to President Trump, cited “unprecedented” and “unrelenting attacks on me personally, my family,” that Pruitt claims “have taken a sizable toll on all of us.”

Pruitt was nominated by president-elect Trump in December 2016, making him “the third of Trump’s nominees who have key philosophical differences with the missions of the agencies they have been tapped to run,” The Washington Post reported on December 8, 2016.

Indeed, Pruitt’s past with the EPA is a storied one. As Attorney General of Oklahoma, Pruitt sued the EPA over a dozen times while Obama was in office, “challenging the agency’s authority to regulate toxic mercury pollution, smog, carbon emissions from power plants and the quality of wetlands and other waters” according to The Washington Post.

Prior to taking office, Pruitt spoke out about his role as head of the EPA: “The American people are tired of seeing billions of dollars drained from our economy due to unnecessary EPA regulations, and I intend to run this agency in a way that fosters both responsible protection of the environment and freedom for American businesses.”

In August 2017, Pruitt announced his intention to revisit regulations on glider kits, which place ”engines, transmissions and rear axles from donor trucks that were either wrecked or unsafe for the road, into a new cab and chassis,” according to FreightWaves. The Environmental Defense fund wrote that “Under the current Clean Trucks Standards, finalized in 2016, engines used in glider trucks must meet NOx and PM pollution standards corresponding to the glider truck’s year of assembly. Older engines may still be installed so long as they are retrofitted to meet modern pollution standards,” and that Pruitt had “moved ahead with a proposed repeal of the glider truck provisions in the 2016 Clean Trucks Standards.”

In February, FreightWaves covered news regarding Fitzgerald glider kits, following the publication of a study conducted by Tennessee Tech. Tennessee Tech’s research “concluded that pollution from glider trucks was no worse than from trucks with modern emissions controls, and was cited by EPA director Scott Pruitt when he announced in November he would make the regulatory change requested by U.S. Rep. Diane Black,” Chad Prevost wrote. It was discovered that Tennessee Tech’s research was sponsored by Fitzgerald Glider Kits, America’s largest glider manufacturer, and that the company also paid for a building on campus.

Prior research by the EPA itself provided data that directly contradicted the study done by Tennessee Tech, “concluding that the air emissions were 43 to 55 times those of trucks with modern emissions controls.”

Just a few weeks later, Senators Tom Udall and Tom Carper wrote that “According to internal agency research not released until after EPA published this proposal, a new 2017 glider truck can emit up to 450 times the particulate matter (PM) pollution, and up to 43 times the nitrous oxide (NOx) pollution, of model year 2014 and 2015 trucks. Other EPA analyses concluded that, if left unregulated, glider vehicle emissions could prematurely kill thousands of people, and increase instances of lung cancer, chronic lung disease, heart disease, and severe asthma attacks,” as reported by FreightWaves.

Pruitt’s resignation follows months of scandals while in office, from the “13 federal inquiries into his spending and management practices” to his staunch stance on deregulation.

Andrew Wheeler, a former coal lobbyist, will assume Pruitt’s former role as Administrator of the EPA on Monday, July 9, as confirmed by Trump. The New York Times notes that Wheeler, the current deputy administrator, “shares Pruitt’s commitment to rolling back regulations.” Others, including Paul Blesdoe, a Clinton White House climate advisor, shared that “many worry Wheeler will be more effective at implementing Trump’s anti-environmental agenda than Pruitt was.”

As it stands, “Mr. Wheeler is expected to serve in an acting capacity as head of the E.P.A. until President Trump nominates a new agency chief, who must then be confirmed by the Senate. That process could take months and potentially stretch past the November midterm elections.”

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