In addition, he tripled the size of his security detail, also at taxpayer expense. He ordered bodyguard coverage 24 hours a day. He insisted on flashing lights and sirens to take him to the airport and to restaurants, a perk customarily reserved for the president and vice president. He rented a room at $50 a night, well below market rates, in a Washington condominium co-owned by the wife of an energy lobbyist with business before Mr. Pruitt’s agency.
He didn’t get everything he and his team wanted: a bulletproof sport utility vehicle, for instance, equipped with special tires designed to keep moving even when hit by gunfire; a $100,000-a-month contract to fly on private jets. But heaven help the E.P.A. staff members bold enough to challenge these demands. The Times reported this month that five agency officials — including Mr. Chmielewski — who objected to Mr. Pruitt’s costly requests and security upgrades were dismissed, reassigned or demoted.
One frequently overlooked truth about Mr. Pruitt amid these complaints is that for all his swagger he has actually accomplished very little in terms of actual policy — a wholly desirable outcome, from our standpoint. While hailed as the administration’s foremost champion of deregulation, he has yet to kill or even roll back any significant regulations that were in place when Mr. Trump came to office. (The Obama administration’s important Clean Power Plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power plants had already been blocked by the courts.) He has delayed a few rules, but even these delays have been overturned or challenged. Most of his actions are in the proposal stage, and many will not be finalized for years, if ever.
That does not mean Mr. Pruitt has been without baleful influence. He helped spearhead the effort to get Mr. Trump to withdraw the United States from the Paris agreement on climate change, a major insult to every other nation on earth, all of which have agreed to limit planet-warming greenhouse gases.
By endless repetition, he has reinforced in the public mind the lie that Republicans have peddled for years and Mr. Trump’s minions peddle now, that environmental rules kill jobs, that limiting carbon dioxide emissions will damage the economy, that the way forward lies not in technology and renewable energy but in digging more coal and punching more holes in the ground in search of oil. And, on the human level, he has been in the forefront of the administration’s shameless effort to delude the nation’s frightened coal miners into thinking coal is coming back, when any comeback is unlikely not because of regulation but because of strong market forces favoring natural gas and renewables.
Should Mr. Pruitt choose to depart — even some Republicans are complaining about his behavior — or by some miracle should Mr. Trump fire him, the administration’s appalling environmental policies are unlikely to change. The recently confirmed deputy administrator, Andrew Wheeler, is a former coal industry lobbyist who shares Mr. Pruitt’s deregulatory zeal and fealty to the fossil fuels industry. Mr. Wheeler was for many years chief of staff for James Inhofe, an Oklahoma Republican and long the Senate’s most determined denier of the accepted science on global warming.