Pruitt resigns, Wheeler to become acting administrator of the EPA

By Erin Voegele | July 05, 2018

On July 5, President Trump announced the resignation of Scott Pruitt as the administrator of the U.S. EPA. Deputy Administrator Andrew Wheeler is set to assume the role of acting administrator of the EPA on July 9.

Trump tweeted the announcement Thursday afternoon, stating that he has accepted the resignation of Pruitt. Trump said Pruitt “has done an outstanding job” and indicated that Wheeler “will continue on with our great and lasting EPA agenda. We have made tremendous process and the future of the EPA is very bright.”

Pruitt’s resignation occurred amid a cloud of ethics scandals. He has been criticized by the biofuels industry for his mismanagement of the Renewable Fuel Standard, including the misuse of RFS small refiner hardship waivers.

“President Trump made the right decision,” said Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa. “Administrator Pruitt’s ethical scandals and his undermining of the President’s commitment to biofuels and Midwest farmers were distracting from the agency’s otherwise strong progress to free the nation of burdensome and harmful government regulations. Fewer things are more important for government officials than maintaining public trust. Administrator Pruitt, through his own actions, lost that trust. I hope Acting Administrator Wheeler views this as an opportunity to restore this Administration’s standing with farmers and the biofuels industry. I’m looking forward to working with Acting Administrator Wheeler to do just that.”

The U.S. Senate confirmed Wheeler’s nomination as deputy EPA administrator in April. He was nominated by Trump to fill the post in October 2017. Information released by the White House at that time indicates Wheeler was a principal and head of the energy and environment team at Faegre Baker Daniels Consulting and co-chaired the energy and natural resources industry team within the law firm. Prior to joining Faegre Baker Daniels he worked at the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee for 14 years. He began his career at the EPA as a special assistant in the toxics office. Wheeler has been criticized by members of the environmental community for his ties to the coal industry.

The Renewable Fuels Association has spoken out to applaud Pruitt’s resignation. “For the past year, Scott Pruitt had been waging war against the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), the biofuels industry, and the millions of farmers and rural Americans who helped Donald Trump get elected,” said Bob Dinneen, president and CEO of the RFA. “It appears these missteps finally caught up with Mr. Pruitt, who apparently thought that RFS stood for ‘Refinery First Strategy.’ Mr. Pruitt’s failure to follow President Trump’s directive to remove the red tape that restricts E15 from being sold in the summertime likely played a part in his demise, and the straw that broke the camel’s back may have been Mr. Pruitt’s recent proposal for 2019 RFS requirements that failed miserably to repair damages done to our nation’s farmers and biofuel producers.

“So, that sound you hear is a collective sigh of relief coming from the Midwest,” Dinneen continued. “We look forward to working with Acting Administrator Andy Wheeler, whose long career focusing on policies that recognize economic growth and environmental protection are not mutually exclusive is not undermined by an unmistakable anti-ethanol, anti-farmer bias.”

The American Coalition for Ethanol has also spoken out in support of Pruitt’s resignation. “While Scott Pruitt survived months of serious and sometimes silly ethical scandals, his mismanagement of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and failure to make good on President Trump’s promises to farmers and rural America about ethanol policies seem to have finally taken a toll,” said Brian Jennings, CEO of ACE. “U.S. farmers are to be commended for standing up and speaking out against Pruitt’s ethanol injustices.  In reality, Pruitt’s resignation doesn’t resemble a victory unless and until EPA returns to respecting the RFS as the law of the land, including quitting handing out Small Refinery Waivers like candy and finding a way to reallocate the waived gallons, as well as making good on the President’s multiple promises to allow E15 use year-round.  Much work remains and we look forward to working with Mr. Andy Wheeler as he takes the helm at EPA.”

Growth Energy called on Wheeler unleash American biofuels. “Administrator Pruitt’s tenure as administrator of the EPA put a heavy strain on this administration’s relationship with supporters, farmers, and biofuel producers across the heartland,” said Emily Skor, CEO of Growth Energy. “We urge the EPA under the new leadership of acting Administrator Wheeler to reinforce those bonds and work as a partner to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the White House in efforts to revitalize rural communities and unleash American biofuels. He can start today by reversing the demand destruction caused by EPA waivers, acting on the president’s pledge to unlock E15, and upholding a strong Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).”

The Advanced Biofuels Business Council expressed hope that Wheeler will act on Trump’s pledge to support biofuels. “Scott Pruitt’s decisions on biofuels drove a wedge between President Trump and his backers in the Midwest,” said Brooke Coleman, executive director of the ABBC. “We’re very hopeful this will open a new chapter in the relationship between the EPA and rural communities. Andrew Wheeler could very easily come out of the gate strong by acting on the president’s pledge to lift regulations on E15 and halting abuse of refinery waivers. It would earn him a deep and loyal bench of supporters across rural America.”