|May 03, 2018|
EPA chief Scott Pruitt is an ethical train wreck. He should depart.
|Defenders overlook his excesses because he has pursued Trump's agenda. But the so-called champion of deregulation has failed.|
Scott Pruitt seems to have wriggled through last week's high-profile testimony on Capitol Hill, but that doesn't mean he should keep his job atop the Environmental Protection Agency.
Even in the scandal-plagued Trump administration, Pruitt stands out as an ethical train wreck who has displayed a jaw-dropping sense of entitlement. His relatively brief tenure as EPA administrator has already spawned no fewer than 11 federal inquiries.
For those keeping score at home, there's his sweetheart, $50-a-night rental agreement with an energy lobbyist's wife. That's on top of his lavish spending of taxpayer money on security, first-class flight tickets and an infamous $43,000 secure phone booth that evokes mirthful comparison with the "cone of silence" in the old Get Smart television series.
You might expect the ex-Oklahoma attorney general would have shown a little humility upon arriving in Washington to serve in the president's Cabinet. But Pruitt did just the opposite, perhaps believing his star turn in Donald Trump's orbit allowed lifestyles-of-the-rich-and-famous behavior combined with obsessiveness about security.
Pruitt reportedly tripled his security staff to 20 people at a cost of $3 million; flew charter and military flights, or first-class commercial, on frequent trips back to Oklahoma; booked a luxury airline for an overseas jaunt; got a larger, fancier SUV to ride around in as administrator; and spent thousands of dollars on special locks for his office and on sweeping the room for listening devices.
Moreover, in last week's congressional testimony, when the administrator wasn't deflecting blame onto his staff, he revealed that he lied in a television news interview about approving exorbitant raises for two appointees, using a cheesy workaround under the Safe Drinking Water Act.
Pruitt's defenders seem willing to overlook all of this because of the way he has pursued the administration's deregulatory agenda. But his record demonstrates that even his chops as a champion of deregulation are inflated.
Trump handpicked him to dismantle President Obama's environmental legacy by easing industry regulations. Those rules took time and significant research to implement and are just as difficult to reverse. And Pruitt hasn't shown the discipline or detail work to do it.
Courts have struck down six of his efforts to delay or roll back Obama regulations on pesticides, lead paint and renewable fuel. While Pruitt helped persuade Trump to abandon the Paris climate accord, that won't take effect until 2020, and there will be years of litigation before Pruitt can come close to undoing two signature Obama achievements: implementing tough standards on vehicle emissions and cutting greenhouse gas pollution from energy plants.
As a climate-change skeptic, Pruitt would never move aggressively to cut heat-trapping gases at a time when that's precisely what's needed to help avert catastrophic warming of the globe.
A fossil-fuel fan like Trump won't care about that. But surely he can find someone to pursue his agenda who isn't weighed down with Pruitt's over-the-limit amount of ethical baggage.