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Top EPA public affairs official departs

Washington (CNN) The Environmental Protection Agency's top public affairs official Liz Bowman is leaving the agency, which has come under intense scrutiny in recent months over EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt's travel, spending and management.

"I leave extremely thankful for the opportunity to serve the Trump Administration and Administrator Pruitt. Being a member of the EPA team has allowed me to further my skills, learn from my mistakes, and make lifelong friendships. It has also provided me the opportunity to develop a new, and deep, respect for the public servants who serve the American people, day in and day out, to ensure that we all have access to clean air, land, and water," Bowman, the associate administrator for public affairs at the EPA, said in a statement to CNN.

A source close to Bowman said she is leaving to handle communications for Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa. News of her departure was earlier reported by Bloomberg.

Bowman is the third top EPA official to leave the agency this week, following the resignation of Pasquale "Nino" Perrotta, who headed Pruitt's security detail, and Albert "Kell" Kelly, an Oklahoma business associate of Pruitt who led the agency's superfund cleanup program. Unlike Bowman, both men had come under scrutiny for their role in the scandals swirling around Pruitt.

The source said she is leaving because she has two small children and wants to be able to spend more time with them.

An EPA source said Bowman "needed something more 'normal,'" but also said Bowman had grown tired of the scandals engulfing the EPA and had in recent weeks grown increasingly wary of being associated with Pruitt.

Behind the scenes, the EPA source said Bowman "broke her back trying to fight these stories the last few months," but Bowman had also begun to distance herself from response efforts in recent weeks, leaving another spokesman, Jahan Wilcox, to be out front in responding to the various reports about Pruitt's conduct.

Those reports have only continued to swell in recent months. Ethics watchdogs, federal auditors and congressional committees are conducting nearly a dozen inquiries into Pruitt's actions at the EPA.

CNN's Sara Ganim and Gregory Wallace contributed to this report.
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