Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt was driven from office by a steady drumbeat of allegations of personal misconduct. Now that this orchestrated campaign has succeeded, environmental groups hope his departure will force a change of direction at the EPA.
That’s what happened the last time an administrator tried to reform the agency. After Anne Gorsuch Burford was censured by the House of Representatives in 1982, President Ronald Reagan gave up and brought back William Ruckelshaus, who was the first administrator in 1970 and saw nothing wrong with what he created.
There will be no backtracking this time. That’s because the new acting administrator, Andrew Wheeler, is fully committed to the president’s agenda, which aims to ensure access to affordable and reliable energy, tackle agency overreach and return the EPA to its original mission. Wheeler may never be President Donald Trump’s favorite or a conservative movement star, as Pruitt was, but he might prove better at implementation.
Pruitt was an outstanding public advocate for undoing Barack Obama’s regulatory onslaught and reforming a hidebound agency. Wheeler previously worked at the EPA and then worked for Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., on the Environment and Public Works Committee, including several years as chief of staff. He’s only been the EPA’s deputy administrator since mid-April.
Because he keeps a low profile, Wheeler gets things done. His skills are especially needed now. Efforts to undo the so-called Clean Power Plan and other energy-rationing rules, as well as the Waters of the U.S. rule, have been beset by glitches and delays. The EPA needs to get going because litigation threatens every deregulatory action.
On at least two major issues — involving greenhouse gas emissions and Alaska mining development — Wheeler may prove bolder than his predecessor. Let’s hope so.