TWIST: one nemesis down - another one rises



Welcome to “This Week in Sustainable Transitions” or TWIST a new weekly post which covers one topic in the news involving sustainable transitions and climate change. Last week’s

Thursday there was sudden breaking news all over social media. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt handed President Trump his resignation letter (and boy what a “Dear Leader” letter it was).

Pruitt’s goal as EPA administrator was to reverse President Barak Obama’s environmental regulations and obstruct the EPA’s work in dealing with climate change issues. However, this is not what caused his resignation; instead it was a mountain of corruption which ultimately led to his downfall.

His scandals included:

1.      Asking aids to change the official EPA calendar to hide meetings

2.      His pricey travel, including flying first class on taxpayer money

3.      The fancy telephone booth he bought for his office

4.      His rental of a condo on the cheap from an energy lobbyist

5.      He made his staff run really weird errands like getting him a mattress from a Trump Hotel

Which, I have to say is an impressive list and this isn’t even all of the scandals. It seemed like every other day there was a new scandal attached to his name. It is such a long list that one wonders that he had time to do anything else. Pruitt was, let’s say, an interesting choice to be the head of the EPA. He has close ties to the industries he is supposed to be regulating and sued the EPA numerous times while he was the Attorney General of Oklahoma.

Throughout his term as EPA administrator, environmental groups repeatedly call for him to be fired. He worked to delay regulations from going into effect, gave out fewer fines for polluting, increased loopholes for polluters, attacked the idea of climate change, attacked science, to just name a few things. On top of all this, he created a culture of fear at the EPA.

So what is next for the EPA? President Trump announced the new acting EPA administrator will be the current deputy administrator Andrew Wheeler. Wheeler is a former coal lobbyist, is known to be anti-regulation, and is working for an administration that is decidedly anti-environmental regulation. It is said that he is unlikely to be as corrupt as Pruitt and avoids the limelight.

So the fight against EPA deregulation continues, and probably will continue until the end of the Trump administration. Only now our attention will be elsewhere. Pruitt’s corruption made us notice what was going on in the EPA-even if it was only to be outraged by his corruption. The danger is that without all of the excitement of overwhelming corruption, other things will call our attention. The Trump administration is nothing if not an unending attention-grabbing drama and it will not be long before the media and the public are focused elsewhere.