William D. Ruckelshaus, a member of the Nixon administration who is considered the "father" of EPA, died today.
The 87-year-old died at his home in Seattle, his daughter Mary Ruckelshaus told The New York Times.
Ruckelshaus twice helmed EPA, from its inception in 1970 to 1973 and then again during the Reagan administration from 1983 to 1985.
But he is perhaps best known for his tenure as deputy attorney general during the Watergate scandal in 1973.
Both Ruckelshaus and then-Attorney General Elliot Richardson refused President Nixon's order to fire special prosecutor Archibald Cox and subsequently resigned their posts during the "Saturday Night Massacre."
EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler praised Ruckelshaus' legacy as the "father of the EPA."
"As the first EPA Administrator, he solidified our country's commitment to protecting human health and the environment," Wheeler said in a statement. "Administrator Ruckelshaus led the agency during a time when the first federal environmental statutes were enacted and set the original example for all subsequent EPA Administrators to follow."
Among his accomplishments, Ruckelshaus is credited with banning the pesticide DDT and addressing vehicle emissions.
"Thanks to his leadership, all Americans are living with better air quality, water quality, and a cleaner and healthier environment. I am grateful for his service to the agency. My thoughts and prayers are with his family and loved ones during this time of grief," Wheeler added.
President Obama awarded Ruckelshaus the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015. A press released issued at the time cited the former official's dedication as a public servant "who has worked tirelessly to protect public health and combat global challenges like climate change."
Earlier this year Ruckelshaus was invited to testify before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations.
He could not travel but instead submitted a statement criticizing the Trump administration.
"They don't believe in this definition of what the agency should do under the existing laws," Ruckelshaus said. "They have to be aggressive. The laws themselves are aggressive. If they are not willing to push hard, not much will happen" (E&E Daily, June 10).