The portrait, which consists of a framed photo transferred to canvas, cost taxpayers $4,513. EPA officials noted that the total bill is less than what it cost to frame the photographic portrait of Pruitt’s predecessor, Gina McCarthy, who served in the Obama administration and is slated to join the incoming Biden administration as the first-ever national climate adviser.
“You know, Gina McCarthy, she had a big event for hers,” Wheeler said. “It’s up to each administrator, what kind of event that they want for the portrait unveiling.”
Pruitt could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
E&E News reported some details about the unveiling ceremony Tuesday afternoon.
Asked how he would define the mark Pruitt left on the agency, Wheeler said: “You know, Scott and I only overlapped eight weeks. So I think it’s too soon to speak to his overall legacy.”
But he added that Pruitt — who set in motion several of the Trump administration’s highest-profile environmental rollbacks on issues ranging from climate pollution to toxic waste from power plants before leaving in 2018 under a cloud of ethics inquiries — did elevate the importance of Superfund cleanups and pushed to more quickly finalize national air quality standards.
The portrait will not be the only lasting physical reminder of Pruitt’s legacy. Nearby, just steps from the EPA administrator’s office, stands the secure phone booth he installed, which violated federal spending laws and cost taxpayers $43,000. Pruitt ultimately made a single call to the White House from the private booth.
Wheeler said that at this point, it would make sense to keep the well-publicized booth in place, given the amount of money spent to reinforce the floor to support it.
“So I think when they started the project they had no idea what they were getting into. … You know, once you start a project you can’t bail in the middle because you have all these sunk costs,” he explained. “It may be expensive to remove it at this point.”