September 18, 2018 / 8:08 PM / a month ago

Environmental agency's top watchdog retiring after Pruitt probes

(Reuters) - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s top internal watchdog will retire next month to take a job outside the federal government, the agency said on Tuesday, after overseeing a slew of probes centered around the Trump administration’s former EPA chief, Scott Pruitt.

FILE PHOTO: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sign is seen on the podium at EPA headquarters in Washington, U.S., July 11, 2018. REUTERS/Ting Shen

Arthur Elkins, who was appointed to serve as EPA’s inspector general by former President Barack Obama and has held the position since 2010, will be replaced on an interim basis by his deputy, Charles Sheehan, until a new nominee is found, the agency said.

“It has been my great honor and privilege to serve the American people in this role for more than eight years,” Elkins said in the release.

Elkins played a central role in a series of investigations into Pruitt’s leadership of the EPA, ranging from his decision to install a $43,000 soundproof phone booth in his office to his rental of a high-end Washington condo from the wife of an energy lobbyist.

FILE PHOTO: Then Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt walks during a picnic for military families celebrating Independence Day at the White House in Washington, U.S., July 4, 2018. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

Pruitt, a self-described doubter of mainstream climate science, resigned in July amid the ethical controversies, and has been replaced by Andrew Wheeler, a former coal lobbyist.

The EPA’s inspector general’s office still has four audits in progress related to Pruitt. Final reports for three of those audits are expected this fall, according to spokesman Jeff Lagda.

A longtime federal employee, Elkins had served in legal positions at the EPA, National Science Foundation, Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency and Department of Defense.

Elkins did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The inspector general is appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate.

Reporting by Nichola Groom; Editing by Alistair Bell

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