Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

Pruitt Sees EPA As Political Stepping Stone

Politics
Gage Skidmore / Flickr

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Chief Scott Pruitt was already voted "worst Trump minion," but, according to reports published last week, Pruitt has his eye on more illustrious titles.

Vanity Fair reported on Wednesday that President Trump was thinking of firing Attorney General Jeff Sessions and replacing him with Pruitt.


Then, on Saturday, The New York Times ran an article outlining Pruitt's long-term political ambitions, leading up to a presidential run as early as 2024.

Trump was considering tapping Pruitt for the Attorney General role because he hoped that Pruitt would not have to recuse himself from the ongoing investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, and might even fire the man currently running it, Special Counsel Robert Mueller, Politico reported Thursday.

According to The Times, Pruitt had been vocal about his willingness to step into the role.

However, Politico pointed out that replacing Sessions with Pruitt might not be a wise move on Trump's part. If he did decide to do so, he would be taking advantage of the Vacancies Reform Act (VRA), which allows the president to replace an attorney general who has died, retired, or left the position for other reasons, as long as the replacement is a member of the executive branch who was confirmed by the Senate for their current post. However, it is unclear whether or not the VRA can be used in the case of a firing, and, if Trump appointed Pruitt and the courts later ruled his tenure illegitimate, any decisions he made as acting attorney general would be overturned.

Further, Pruitt-as-attorney-general might end up having to recuse himself from the Mueller investigation after all given his close political ties to Trump, Politico reported.

White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly, who shot down Pruitt's idea for a public climate change debate, also reportedly put a damper on his Department of Justice ambitions. Kelly called Pruitt Wednesday night and told him that the president was pleased with his work as EPA chief and that he shouldn't concern himself with the attorney general position, The Washington Post reported.

Still, Kelly's may not be the final world. The same Post article repeated rumors that Kelly's job might also be in danger, though other sources say his position is secure.

But no matter how Pruitt fares in the immediate Trump administration shake-up, he still holds longer-term ambitions.

The Times reported that Pruitt might run for office in his home state of Oklahoma as a stepping stone to the presidency. He could step in to this year's governor's race or run for Senate in 2020 if the current Republican James Inhofe retires.

Pruitt's aggressive push to repeal or halt Obama-era environmental regulations—such as the Clean Power Plan curbing coal-power-plant emissions or the Clean Water Rule protecting rivers, lakes, wetlands and streams from pollution—might be a sign of his political ambitions.

The EPA chief under George H. W. Bush, William K. Reilly, told The Times that the agency's leaders don't normally go on to high-profile political careers, since even the Republican appointees tend to make enemies as they enforce environmental policies.

"The mission he is on is not one that his predecessors at the EPA have recognized. And it could be a good strategy to win the constituency that elected the president," Reilly told The Times.

Pruitt's deregulatory efforts might actually do more short-term good for his political career than they will do lasting harm to the environment. Christine Todd Whitman, who also led the EPA head under a Republican administration when she was appointed by George W. Bush, said that he is announcing these efforts too quickly ensure they won't be overturned in the courts later.

"They're getting rushed out. I don't think the homework is getting done. It makes for good sound bites, but they might not stand up legally," Whitman told The Times.

But even if they were overturned, Whitman didn't think Pruitt would necessarily pay with his base. "Pruitt could be gone from the EPA by the time that happens," Whitman continued.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Food Tank

By Danielle Nierenberg and Alonso Diaz

With record high unemployment, a reeling global economy, and concerns of food shortages, the world as we know it is changing. But even as these shifts expose inequities in the health and food systems, many experts hope that the current moment offers an opportunity to build a new and more sustainable food system.

Read More Show Less
Pexels

By Brian J. Love and Julie Rieland

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the U.S. recycling industry. Waste sources, quantities and destinations are all in flux, and shutdowns have devastated an industry that was already struggling.

Read More Show Less
Pixabay

By Kris Gunnars, BSc

Unhealthy foods play a primary role in many people gaining weight and developing chronic health conditions, more now than ever before.

Read More Show Less
A man pushes his mother in a wheelchair down Ocean Drive in South Beach, Miami on May 19, 2020, amid the novel coronavirus pandemic. CHANDAN KHANNA / AFP via Getty Images

The U.S. reported more than 55,000 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, in a sign that the outbreak is not letting up as the Fourth of July weekend kicks off.

Read More Show Less
To better understand how people influence the overall health of dolphins, Oklahoma State University's Unmanned Systems Research Institute is developing a drone to collect samples from the spray that comes from their blowholes. Ken Y. / CC by 2.0

By Jason Bruck

Human actions have taken a steep toll on whales and dolphins. Some studies estimate that small whale abundance, which includes dolphins, has fallen 87% since 1980 and thousands of whales die from rope entanglement annually. But humans also cause less obvious harm. Researchers have found changes in the stress levels, reproductive health and respiratory health of these animals, but this valuable data is extremely hard to collect.

Read More Show Less

Sunscreen pollution is accelerating the demise of coral reefs globally by causing permanent DNA damage to coral. gonzalo martinez / iStock / Getty Images Plus

On July 29, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed into law a controversial bill prohibiting local governments from banning certain types of sunscreens.

Read More Show Less

Trending

Oat milk is popping up at coffee shops and grocery stores alike, quickly becoming one of the trendiest plant-based milks. jacqueline / CC by 2.0

By Kelli McGrane

Oat milk is popping up at coffee shops and grocery stores alike, quickly becoming one of the trendiest plant-based milks.

Read More Show Less