It took months of revelation after damning revelation for President Donald Trump to finally remove Scott Pruitt from the top job at the Environmental Protection Agency. Pruitt last week joined the ranks of former Trump administration officials forced to resign in disgrace, raising questions about why Trump hired them in the first place. At this point, a decent president would ask himself what he has been doing wrong.
Now EPA Deputy Administrator Andrew Wheeler will fill in while President Donald Trump finds a new leader for the agency.
Wheeler is a longtime Washington insider unlikely to commit ethical mistakes on Pruitt’s scale. But anyone hoping for a broader change in direction at the EPA will have to keep waiting. Though Wheeler previously served on the EPA’s professional staff, he spent years working for Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., an arch-climate-denier, and as a coal lobbyist. His most prominent former client, coal magnate Robert Murray, is an aggressive opponent of important air-pollution rules that the Obama EPA tried to impose and that Pruitt began the process of ripping up. There is little doubt Wheeler will try to finish the job.
The New York Times reported Thursday that the EPA is poised to propose a comprehensive rollback of regulations that would require large cuts in greenhouse-gas emissions from existing power plants, a huge source of planet-warming emissions. In place of rules that would have mandated that the electricity system as a whole become steadily cleaner, the EPA would only call for small changes at individual power plants.
Along with other regulatory changes on their way or already complete, this would represent a near-surrender on the part of the federal government on the issue of climate change.
Trump appears more concerned about what Fox News will say about his presidency in the next hour than what the history books will say in years to come. But if he cares about his legacy, he should choose a new EPA administrator who will address the urgent climate and other environmental issues the country faces.
FROM AN EDITORIAL IN THE WASHINGTON POST