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

Amy Harder, author of Generate
2 hours ago - Energy & Environment

Climate change goes mainstream in presidential debate

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty

The most notable part of Thursday’s presidential debate on climate change was the fact it was included as a topic and assumed as a fact.

The big picture: This is the first time in U.S. presidential history that climate change was a featured issue at a debate. It signals how the problem has become part of the fabric of our society. More extreme weather, like the wildfires ravaging Colorado, is pushing the topic to the front-burner.

Finally, a real debate

Photo: Morry Gash/AP

A more disciplined President Trump held back from the rowdy interruptions at tonight's debate in Nashville, while making some assertions so outlandish that Joe Biden chuckled and even closed his eyes. A Trump campaign adviser told Axios: "He finally listened." 

The result: A real debate.

Biden to Trump: "I have not taken a penny from any foreign source ever in my life"

Former VP Joe Biden pushed back Thursday against allegations from President Trump, saying he had never profited from foreign sources. "Nothing was unethical," Biden told debate moderator Kristen Welker about his son Hunter's work in Ukraine while he was vice president.

Why it matters: Earlier on Thursday, Hunter Biden's former business partner, Tony Bobulinski, released a statement saying Joe Biden's claims that he never discussed overseas business dealings with his son were "false."