Just when America had all but given up hope, Scott Pruitt’s appalling reign as Environmental Protection Agency administrator is finally over. Thursday afternoon, Pruitt delivered President Donald Trump his resignation letter, replete with references to "God’s providence" and how "blessed" he was to have had the opportunity to serve not the nation but this president. He sadly noted that "the unrelenting attacks on me personally, my family, are unprecedented and have taken a sizable toll on all of us." And so Pruitt heads for the door, leaving behind a dark, oily stain on the office that he has spent the past year and a half vigorously defiling.
For months, Pruitt held on to his job as the embarrassing revelations piled up like so many used mattresses: his profligate spending on posh travel, over-the-top security, and ridiculous, self-aggrandizing office supplies; his directing agency staffers to run his personal errands, including finding him a place to live in Washington and combing hotels for his favorite skin cream; his attempts to score his wife a high-paying job, possibly involving chicken nuggets and waffle fries. Every week seemed to bring fresh examples of Pruitt’s shameless and yet surprisingly petty misuse of his office.
Trump’s willingness to tolerate Pruitt’s chicanery was not surprising. The two men share an environmental philosophy that may be roughly summarized as "industry over science," and, for all his flaws, Pruitt was tireless in the crusade to dismantle environmental protections. His greatest hits include playing a key role in getting Trump to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate agreement; pushing the repeal of numerous Obama-era regulations, including those to cut greenhouse gas emissions from power plants and automobiles; and instituting a policy that barred scientists who receive federal grants from serving on the EPA’s advisory committees, while simultaneously welcoming corporate representatives onto these panels. In June, the Times reported that the EPA had decided for the most part not to consider exposure to chemicals through the air, water or ground when it is evaluating whether they should be regulated or banned under a bipartisan law passed in 2016.
In the end, Pruitt was driven from office for having abused his position so outrageously. But if Trump continues down the same policy paths, as seems likely, Pruitt’s more lasting legacy, along with the president’s, will be an overheated planet and shortened life spans.