Scott Pruitt, the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and one of President Trump's most effective and controversial cabinet secretaries, resigned on July 5 amid continuing revelations about ethical lapses and investigations that plagued much of his tenure at the agency.
Pruitt was largely considered to be the architect behind EPA's decision to exempt dozens of refineries from obligations to buy renewable identification numbers, known as RINs, under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program. These waivers have led to volatile and uncertain biofuels markets. RIN markets were bullish after news of Pruitt's resignation was announced.
As EPA Administrator, Pruitt oversaw the most effective regulatory rollback in EPA's history, repealing or delaying numerous Obama-era environmental rules. These include fuel efficiency standards for vehicles and mitigating pollution from power plants. Pruitt also played a lead role in convincing President Trump to withdraw the United States from the 2015 Paris climate agreement.
His tenure at EPA was dogged by allegations of unethical behavior, from cozy relationships with lobbyists to spending improprieties to retroactively altering his public schedule in violation of federal law. Reports indicate that the most recent new reports that Pruitt had urged President Trump to fire Attorney General Jeff Sessions and replace Sessions with Pruitt was the final straw for President Trump.
Until a successor is named and confirmed by the Senate -- unlikely to occur until well after the November midterm elections -- EPA will be led by Pruitt's deputy, Andrew Wheeler. Wheeler reportedly shares Pruitt's desire to roll back environmental regulations, but it is uncertain whether Wheeler will be as aggressive in undercutting the Renewable Fuel Standard.
Wheeler previously worked as a consultant in Washington, D.C., for biofuels interests (as well as the coal industry), and also was supported by Midwestern senators in his confirmation vote several months ago.
While Wheeler is likely to implement policies similar to those supported by Pruitt, supporters of the Renewable Fuel Standard are cautiously optimistic that Wheeler will be less inclined to undercut the RFS in a manner that favors the merchant refinery community than was his predecessor.
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