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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

Austria approves COVID vaccine mandate for adults

A vaccination center installed at the Barbara Chapel of St Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna, Austria. Photo: Alex Halada/AFP via Getty Images

Austria's lower house of parliament voted on Thursday in favor of making COVID-19 vaccinations compulsory for most adults from next month.

Why it matters: The bill is expected to soon pass the upper house and be signed by President Alexander Van der Bellen in order for the law to take effect Feb. 1, per Reuters. It'd make Austria the first EU nation to impose such a sweeping mandate.

Hope King, author of Closer
Updated 3 hours ago - Economy & Business

Peloton pumps its brakes

Data: FactSet; Chart: Axios Visuals

Peloton’s popularity is falling as swiftly as it shot up.

Why it matters: Not all pandemic habits stick around. Peloton's trajectory over the past two years exemplifies how challenging it's been for companies to gauge shifts in consumer demand — particularly in sectors heavily altered by the pandemic.

Mitch McConnell's remarks on Black voters raise ire

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell during a Capitol Hill news conference earlier this year. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has been widely criticized for comments he made this week about Black American voters.

Driving the news: When asked by a reporter Wednesday about concerns among voters of color, McConnell said "the concern is misplaced, because if you look at the statistics, Black American voters are voting in just as high a percentage as Americans."