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Update: A second accuser emerges with misconduct allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavenaugh. Also on the Monday rundown: We take you to a state where more than 60,000 kids are chronically absent from school; and we'll let you know why the rural digital divide can be a two-fold problem.

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Government Watchdog Groups: Pruitt's EPA Exit "Long Overdue"

July 6, 2018

WASHINGTON – After allegedly overspending on everything from pens to lavish trips and accepting questionable deals from lobbyists, government ethics and watchdog groups say Scott Pruitt's resignation as Environmental Protection Agency administrator is long overdue.

During his one-year tenure, Pruitt was seen by conservatives as one of President Donald Trump's most effective Cabinet members, working relentlessly to dismantle Obama-era regulations aimed at reducing pollution.

Stephen Spaulding, chief of strategy for the group Common Cause, said Pruitt's questionable past was widely known. His group had urged Congress to delay the confirmation when Pruitt withheld documents revealing corporate influence in his decisions as Oklahoma attorney general.

"He was clearly unfit for the position of public trust that he was in as administrator of the EPA," said Spaulding. "I think we were extremely troubled that the majority in Congress really refused to hold him accountable and, in our view, were complicit."

Spaulding shared similar reservations about Andrew Wheeler, a former coal-company lobbyist and now EPA deputy administrator, who will take Pruitt's place as acting administrator on Monday. Pruitt expressed no regrets in a letter submitted to media outlets on Thursday.

Environmental groups predict the Trump administration will continue its pattern of appointing the least likely candidate to head the agency. Kara Cook-Schultz, director of U.S. PIRG's (Public Interest Research Group) toxics program, thinks the president should take time to really understand the purpose of the EPA.

"Scott Pruitt has failed in the EPA mission to protect human health and the environment, and Americans are less safe today than they should be, due to his poor decisions and leadership," Cook-Schultz said.

Like President Trump, Pruitt voiced skepticism about mainstream climate science. Andrew Wheeler also doubts that humans are a primary cause of climate change.

Trimmel Gomes/Chris Thomas, Public News Service - MD