Photo: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call

Albert "Kell" Kelly, a top aide to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt on toxic waste cleanups, has decided to resign from the agency, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: Pruitt has called Superfund a top priority. But Kelly, a past business associate of Pruitt's, has attracted controversy in the role.

Two sources with knowledge of Kelly's decision say the continual bad press about his history in banking — per the NYT, he was barred from working in the finance industry because of a banking violation — made Kelly decide "enough is enough." 

Quoted: Pruitt, in a statement, praised Kelly's work.

  • “Kell Kelly’s service at EPA will be sorely missed. In just over a year he has made a tremendous impact on EPA’s Superfund program, serving as chair of the Superfund Task Force and presiding over the development of the steps necessary to implement the recommendations in the report," he said, referring to a set of recommendations on bolstering cleanups issued last year.
  • "Kell has made a point to visit dozens of Superfund sites across the country and has met directly with impacted citizens, community groups and responsible parties," Pruitt said.

Big picture: The resignation comes as Pruitt is embroiled in a series of controversies around his travel and security spending, raises for top aides and more.

While many senior officials at the White House want Pruitt gone — one told Axios his firing is inevitable and part of the need to "rip off the band-aid" — President Trump continues to stick by him.

One level deeper: Kelly is a former banking executive in Oklahoma but was banned last year from the industry by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. He "did not admit or deny the agency's allegations," the Oklahoman reported last year.

However, in response to a question about his history in the industry, an EPA spokesman emailed this quote in his defense . . .

  • “Kell Kelly is a man of high integrity. During my time as CEO of the American Bankers Association, Mr. Kelly served as my chairman and helped lead the association through a difficult period following 2008 financial crisis; Administrator Pruitt is fortunate to have him,” said Frank Keating, former Oklahoma governor and former CEO of the American Bankers Association.

Go deeper

Updated 3 mins ago - World

At least 100 killed, much of Beirut destroyed in massive explosion

Photo: Anwar Amro/AFP via Getty Images

A major explosion Beirut, Lebanon has killed at least 100 people and injured over 4,000, according to the Lebanese Red Cross.

Driving the news: Prime Minister Hassan Diab said the explosions occurred at a warehouse that had been storing 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate for over six years.

Biden confidants see VP choices narrowing to Harris and Rice

Photos: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images; Win McNamee/Getty Images

Confidants of Joe Biden believe his choices for vice president have narrowed to Sen. Kamala Harris and Susan Rice — and would be surprised if he picks anyone else.

The state of play: This is a snapshot of the nearly unanimous read that we get from more than a dozen people close to him.

An election like no other

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The coronavirus will make the 2020 presidential election different from any in modern history: Voting that begins earlier, results that take longer, mail carriers as virtual poll workers and October Surprises that pop in September.

The big picture: Perhaps 80 million Americans will vote early, by mail or in person, Tom Bonier, CEO of TargetSmart, a Democratic political data firm, tells Axios. That's going to set up more of an Election Season than an Election Day — and increase the odds of national turmoil over the vote count.