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US EPA Chief Pruitt has resigned: Trump

Highlights

Scott Pruitt, the embattled chief of the US Environmental Protection Agency, has resigned, President Donald Trump announced Thursday afternoon on Twitter.

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"I have accepted the resignation of Scott Pruitt as the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency," Trump wrote. "Within the agency, Scott has done an outstanding job, and I will always be thankful to him for this."

Trump said that Andrew Wheeler, currently the EPA's deputy administrator, will serve as the agency's acting administrator, starting Monday.

"I have no doubt that Andy will continue on with our great and lasting EPA agenda," Trump wrote. "We have made tremendous progress and the future of the EPA is very bright!"

Wheeler is a former coal lobbyist and chief of staff to Senator James Inhofe, an Oklahoma Republican and outspoken critic of climate change science.

"Andrew worked for me for 14 years, has an impeccable reputation and has the experience to be a strong leader at the EPA," Inhofe said Thursday in a statement. "I have no doubt and complete confidence he will continue the important deregulatory work that Scott Pruitt started while being a good steward of the environment."

As administrator, Pruitt was linked to several ethics scandals, including a deal with an energy lobbyist's wife for inexpensive housing, and is the subject of more than a dozen federal investigations.

Pruitt, a former Oklahoma attorney general who regularly sued the EPA during the Obama administration, had remained at the top of the agency despite the scandals largely because of his work dismantling clean air and water rules developed during the Obama administration.

But Pruitt faced criticism from farm-state senators, including key Iowa Republicans Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst, for what they saw as his undermining of the Renewable Fuel Standard, which requires refineries to blend increasing amounts of biofuel into gasoline and diesel . They contend that Pruitt's acceleration of waivers exempting small refineries from the mandate have cut biofuel blending by more than 1 billion gallons.

"I am hopeful that the president will just recognize that Mr. Pruitt is breaking our president's promises to farmers and at some point he will say, 'It's time for you to go.' But that's up to the president to make that call. I will remain highly critical of Administrator Pruitt," Ernst said at an S&P Global Platts Energy Podium in June. Ernst, who supported Pruitt's nomination, said "a number of other transgressions" have shown he misspends money and misuses his office. "He is about as swampy as you get here in Washington, DC," Ernst said.

Last week, Pruitt announced proposed RFS volumes which would require US refiners to blend 19.88 billion gallons of biofuel into gasoline and diesel supplies in 2019, up 3% from this year.

Pruitt's resignation was applauded by the Renewable Fuels Association who said he had been "waging war" against the RFS, farmers and the biofuels industry for the past year.

"So, that sound you hear is a collective sigh of relief coming from the Midwest," Bob Dinneen, RFA's president and CEO, said in a statement.

In April, EPA started the process to formally scrap the Obama administration's fuel economy standards for 2022-2025 model year cars and light trucks, setting up a confrontation with California over its stricter standards.

Pruitt met last week with Mary Nichols, chairwoman of the California Air Resources Board, to discuss the planned changes to the efficiency standards. Pruitt was expected to soon announce whether he planned to revoke California's authority to set its own greenhouse gas emissions standards.

Pruitt also sought to freeze Obama administration regulation on methane emissions from new oil and gas sources, although that effort has been hung up in court. In addition, he suspended efforts to collect data on such emissions from existing oil and gas sources, retreating from the information gathering exercise Obama's EPA had launched as a lead-up to further regulation.

He sought to repeal Obama's Clean Power Plan to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants, and was expected to float a substitute proposal. (Updates with additional details, quotes)

--Brian Scheid, brian.scheid@spglobal.com

--Maya Weber, maya.weber@spglobal.com

--Meghan Gordon, meghan.gordon@spglobal.com

--Edited by Valarie Jackson, newsdesk@spglobal.com