With Andrew Wheeler taking the helm, that’s the question that hangs over organizers, activists, and everyday people who stood against Pruitt. It’s important to understand how this happened, because with Wheeler’s pro-fossil fuel agenda, we have to hold him just as accountable. Now that we’ve had a taste of victory in our fight to protect our planet, let’s look at how we got here.
The Timeline Of Pruitt’s Ethics Scandals
February 2017 Scott Pruitt is appointed by Trump as Administrator of the EPA and approved by Congress. Over 7,500 emails from his time as Oklahoma’s Attorney General reveal his friendly relationship with the fossil fuel industry.
April 2017 The Washington Post reports on Pruitt’s 24/7 security detail. One year later, the EPA’s own expense reporting shows that he spent almost $3.5 million on security during his first year in the job. This was almost two million more than his predecessor spent per year.
September 2017 Media report that Pruitt purchased a $43,000 soundproof telephone booth for his office. The Government Accountability Office determines that it violates a cap in spending on office upgrades.
December 2017 The New York Times reports on a strange arrangement between Pruitt and Allan Blutstein and Definers Public Affairs. Food & Water Watch files a Freedom of Information Act request for documentation around that arrangement.
March 2018 The public learns of Scott Pruitt’s condo-rental agreement with the wife of an energy lobbyist. The curiously low rates he was charged cast the agreement as more of a potential gift from a lobbyist than a market-rate rental. Taxpayers also find out about Pruitt’s extravagant spending on first-class flights to the tune of $105,000.
April 2018 Media reports that Pruitt gave two of his aides significant raises in pay. When the increases were at first denied, he used a loophole in the Safe Drinking Water Act to get them approved. Then he claimed he was unaware of the raises and reversed them when the issue received public attention. As Pruitt’s scandals garnered more media attention, his EPA quietly released a report revealing a need for half a trillion dollars in infrastructure updates for safe drinking water. Food & Water Watch didn’t allow it to slip under the radar.
May 2018 Via the Washington Post, Americans caught whiff of Pruitt having a Comcast lobbyist co-arrange his trip to Morocco — at a cost of $100,000. It confirmed suspicions for many that the government official was a little too cozy with lobbyists. Journalists were also barred from a hearing on water contamination, which Food & Water Watch was vocal in protesting.
June 2018 One of Pruitt’s closest aides revealed that she’d been enlisted to help with obtaining a used mattress from Trump International Hotel in D.C., among other personal tasks. He also requested an aide to help his wife secure a “business opportunity” with a Chick-Fil-A franchise. FOIA requests revealed that one of his top aides approved an order from a jewelry store which included twelve ornate pens at a cost of $1,560. Scott Pruitt also came under official investigation for retaliation against EPA staff who dissented with his decisions. Food & Water Watch files a FOIA lawsuit against Scott Pruitt’s EPA for its refusal to turn over documents as demanded in the December’s FOIA request.
July 2018 Media reveals that Pruitt asked a former aide to help his wife get a job as a fundraiser for the Republican Attorney Generals Association. Footage from an encounter with a mother and child in a Washington, D.C. restaurant goes viral; Scott Pruitt resigns days later.
"[Pruitt] was appointed to dismantle the EPA from the inside, he was extremely effective at doing that, and Andrew Wheeler is likely to be possibly even better at that, because Scott Pruitt was not well-liked and Wheeler is." - @KristinMinkDC, who confronted Pruitt Monday#DNlive pic.twitter.com/kfriu5Grwj
— Democracy Now! (@democracynow) July 6, 2018
The common denominator every time Scott Pruitt tried to abuse the public’s trust in our EPA was that watchdog groups like Food & Water Watch and people like you fought back and raised public awareness. It simply cannot be overstated — standing up for each other and our environment is crucial work. Thank you to everyone who has joined us in this fight.
Where Do We Go From Here?
With Andrew Wheeler taking Scott Pruitt’s place, we have to show that we aren’t tired and we aren’t backing down. Wheeler will likely be a little different, not in his agenda, but in his behavior. There may be fewer outright personal scandals by Wheeler, which actually makes him more dangerous. He might be better at flying under the radar, but we won’t let him. We’ll birddog Wheeler’s every misspent cent and every cozy arrangement that isn’t about upholding the EPA’s promise to the people, which is buried on their archived older website and looks like this: