Pruitt resigns – USC experts available

July 9, 2018

With Scott Pruitt under fire for possible ethical violations and the roll-back of many foundational rules of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) while head of the agency, Pruitt’s resignation is not a surprise for many pundits. But what does this mean for the EPA, what is Pruitt’s legacy and what is the future for the environment? USC experts have their take on these questions and more.

Contact: Jeremy Pepper at (213) 740-8606 or

Must do more to protect our resources

“The resignation today of Administrator Pruitt will be welcomed by many in the environmental health community. However, the policies that he put in place and the directions in which the EPA is currently headed are still problematic and in need of public review and reconsideration.”

“I continue to believe that we must do more, NOT less, to protect our resources and improve the health of our communities. EPA has historically been the national steward for many of those efforts, and I, as many others, wait to hear the direction and tone of the next Administrator.”

Ed Avol studies how, where and to what people are exposed within the environment and, in particular, the harmful effects of pollutants on children. He is a professor in the Environmental Health Division of the Department of Preventive Medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC and has served on several expert panels to review national air quality standards, ensuring that health is a chief consideration in urban planning issues such as freeway expansions and the increased cargo goods movement.

Avol is also one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit against Pruitt and the EPA, and speaks from a personal point-of-view on the resignation.

Contact: (323) 442-1090 or

Malfeasance and politics

“The dozens of allegations against Pruitt long ago exceeded the level of alleged malfeasance that our system tends to tolerate in its policymakers.”

“Most systems can and will tolerate some malfeasance. Trying to eradicate all corruption would not be a good use of government resources. But whatever the ‘efficient’ level of corruption in a bureaucracy, if the allegations against Pruitt are true, we are well past it.”

Abby Wood joined USC Gould School of Law in spring 2014 as assistant professor of law, political science, and public policy. Her research is at the intersection of law and politics, with current papers on government transparency, anti-corruption initiatives, and campaign finance. Wood teaches administrative law, campaign finance, and analytical methods for lawyers. She has taught on a variety of subjects, including international human rights law, constitutional law, quantitative methods for political science, and comparative politics.

Before joining USC Gould, Wood clerked for the Honorable John T. Noonan, judge of the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. She also has consulted on good governance projects in association with USAID, World Bank, National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, and UNDP.

Contact: (213) 740-8012, mobile (817) 996-8784‬ or

Dismantling protection of natural resources

“Pruitt will be remembered as a controversial leader who was able to quickly dismantle many core mission-related aspects of the EPA related to clean water, clean air and other protection of natural resources for economic gain. In his short tenure, Pruitt made it a point to take aim at just about every major Obama-era EPA rule, making him a pariah on the left, and a hero on the right.”

“While the EPA as an agency will likely recover over time with new leadership, the political rollbacks for environmental protection will have a much longer-term effect. As academics training the next generation in environmental scientists and policymakers, Pruitt’s legacy provides an ideal case study to reinforce the idea that complex issues are not easily solved. Now more than ever we need to bring back integrated science-based decision making with training in other complex aspects for effective environmental governance.”

Karla Heidelberg, Director of USC Program in Environmental Studies, is an expert in marine ecology, extreme environments and international science policy and is a professor (teaching) of Biological Sciences and Environmental Studies at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts & Sciences.

Heidelberg’s research at USC has focused on the genomics and metabolism of microbes in coastal oceans. She also studies life in extreme environments such as Antarctica, hypersaline lakes in Australia, and hydrothermal vent systems on the ocean floor. Her teaching courses span biology, marine biology, ecology, and oceanography, and she has received several university awards including the Steven B. Sample Teaching and Mentoring Award for 2012-2013.

Contact: (213) 740-0951, mobile (310) 510-4038 or

Somber legacy of fighting regulation

“Scott Pruitt’s resignation brings a sigh of relief for anyone who cares about the environment. Besides the ethics and management scandals that were his undoing, he leaves behind a somber legacy of fighting any and all forms of regulation, undermining the very work of his agency’s employees, and protecting corporate interests over those of most Americans.”

“The relief will be short-lived, however: his successor A. Wheeler is a seasoned lobbyist for the coal industry (which shows so little regard for its own employees’ well-being that Black Lung is now making a resurgence around Appalachia). The public can expect as little environmental protection under Wheeler as under Pruitt, but perhaps a less lavish lifestyle at taxpayer’s expense.”

Julien Emile-Geay, an associate professor of Earth Sciences at the USC Dornsife College, studies how climate varies on timescales longer than a few years: the bassline of climate. Using models and observations, he creates conceptual representations of climate to shed light on its long-term behavior. He is particularly interested in constraining how much of climate variations arise from within, or are being triggered by external factors, natural or human. Beyond climate science, he also teaches the art of making reliable inferences from data – an increasingly vital necessity in the Age of Misinformation. Professor Emile-Geay is passionate about educating people of all levels of scientific literacy to the reality of man-made global warming, using knowledge to empower individuals to generate positive change.

Contact: (213) 740-2945 or