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Pruitt Gone, But "No Happy Ending" for Planet as Coal Lobbyist Andrew Wheeler Takes Over EPA

"Before everyone gets excited about Pruitt, remember we're going to get all the same horrific policy under Andrew Wheeler, without any of the comic, attention-drawing personal corruption."

Andrew Wheeler will serve as acting Environmental Protection Agency administrator while President Trump seeks a successor to Pruitt. (Photo: Alex Edelman/CNP/MediaPunch via Alamy)

While the long-overdue departure of ceaselessly corrupt EPA chief Scott Pruitt on Thursday was undoubtedly a small win for the public and the planet, environmentalists were quick to note that "there's no happy ending to this story" as Pruitt is being replaced by former coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler, who worked for years as an aide to fervent climate-denier Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.).

"Pruitt's departure may cost us some jokes, but it won't change the Trump administration or help save the planet or Americans' health. Next in line to run the EPA is a coal lobbyist."
—Robert Weissman, Public Citizen

"Before everyone gets excited about Pruitt, remember we're going to get all the same horrific policy under Andrew Wheeler, without any of the comic, attention-drawing personal corruption," Vox environment writer David Roberts tweeted after President Donald Trump announced on Thursday that he had accepted Pruitt's resignation.

"Pruitt's departure may cost us some jokes," added Public Citizen president Robert Weissman in a statement, "but it won't change the Trump administration or help save the planet or Americans' health. Next in line to run the EPA is a coal lobbyist."

Judith Enck, an Obama-era former EPA regional administrator, told Mother Jones in an interview ahead of Wheeler's confirmation as deputy EPA administrator in April that Wheeler serving as EPA chief would be comparable to "having a tobacco lobbyist heading up the American Lung Association."

"Wheeler would continue the polluting policies of Pruitt but perhaps have the good sense not to violate federal ethics rules," Enck predicted.

Green groups expressed the same sentiment in response to Pruitt's resignation on Thursday.

In a statement, Friends of the Earth argued that fossil fuel industry insiders like Wheeler "have no business leading the EPA" and vowed to hold him accountable "for his efforts to harm our public health and environment" during his time as acting EPA chief.

Offering a glimpse of the sprawling financial conflicts of interests Wheeler brings to the top leadership post at the EPA, ProPublica tweeted a list of all the companies Wheeler has lobbied for as well as his financial disclosures:

While Wheeler may find it difficult to accumulate the same number of ridiculous scandals as his predecessor, many pointed to the fact that he hosted fundraisers for GOP senators while they were evaluating his nomination for deputy EPA administrator as clear evidence of his contempt for basic ethical standards.

Noting that Pruitt's resignation "should be welcome news to anybody who values clean air and water," Earthjustice president Trip Van Noppen concluded in a statement on Thursday that it "does not close the chapter on the Trump administration’s continuous assault on commonsense environmental safeguards."

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