Monday, Sep 24, 2018
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Editorials

Scott Pruitt was the swamp

  • EPA-Pruitt-5

    After intensifying scrutiny, Scott Pruitt resigned as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency last week.

    ASSOCIATED PRESS

  • Jack-Ohman-Scott-Pruit-WaPo

    Washington Post Writers Group/Jack Ohman

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The resignation of Scott Pruitt as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency is an opportunity for President Trump to correct a mistake.

In Mr. Pruitt, the President made a bad appointment who brought discredit on his administration.

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With his penchant for pricey trips with first-class airline seats, a $43,000 soundproof booth for making private phone calls, a swollen personal security detail, and a helping hand for his wife’s business career, Mr. Pruitt almost made swamp-thing behavior — corruption and entitlement — an art form.

He certainly made life easy for his enemies.

At the time of his resignation, Mr. Pruitt was under more than a dozen federal and congressional investigations.

Rather than emptying the swamp, as President Trump promised to do, he was stocking the swamp with the appointment of Mr. Pruitt.

And though Mr. Pruitt was fulfilling the pro-business goals of the President in rolling back environmental regulations, Mr. Pruitt finally embarrassed the President enough to be asked for his resignation.

Scott Pruitt built his career on suing the EPA. As EPA administrator, he rolled back regulations aimed at mitigating global warming pollution from the United States’ vehicles and power plants. And he played a leading role in encouraging Mr. Trump to pull the U.S. out of the 2015 Paris climate agreement, under which most countries in the world committed to reducing emissions of planet-warming fossil fuel pollution.

Mr. Pruitt not only lacked an ethical compass, but he lacked policy balance. He was a zealot.

President Trump’s next choice to head the EPA should be someone who has run something — a state, a federal agency, or a large business, and who is a pragmatist and a realist. That is, he should not be a zealot of the left, who bends the laws and regulations to say far more than they do and to make doing business in America impossible, and he should not be a zealot of the right for whom clean air and water has no importance.

A person who does not believe in the EPA should not head the EPA, any more than a person who does not believe in taxation should head the IRS.

The administrator should respect science and not try to muzzle scientists.

The next administrator should be a bipartisan figure who will make a good-faith effort to run the agency honestly and fairly.

The President might look for a GOP governor, or ex-governor, with a business background.

Finally, Ohio voters, a majority of whom chose Mr. Trump for president in 2016, do not expect him to let Lake Erie die on his watch — due primarily to tons of animal manure being dumped into the lake without constraint. Nothing is more important to the future of Ohio than its great lake.

The EPA exists for a reason. If we destroy it, we will only have to reinvent it.

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