If it was a love letter, it would have been a very long one. One group after another lined up in front of the EPA building in Washington, D.C. one cloudy morning to tell the Environmental Protection Agency and its employees how much they appreciate and support their mission protecting public health and saving lives.
As the Trump administration under Scott Pruitt is tearing down the EPA, these Americans are trying to pick up the pieces, vowing to fight Pruitt’s campaign against public health and the agency tasked to protect it.
“I want to thank the workers of the EPA for making the EPA an American success story,” Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, told the crowd of EPA employees and supporters April 25. “You have been able to cut air pollution, cut water pollution, cut climate pollution, save lives, and save money year after year after year. It happens because of your dedication, because of your hard work, because of your independence, because of your determination. You’re doing this in spite of, not because of, not with the support of, but in spite of the current EPA administrator. The American people noticed. We’re watching you. We’re rooting for you. We’re cheering you on. We’re counting on you. We need a strong EPA.”
“A number of you here are the hard-working public servants of the EPA. The way I look at it, you are the EPA,” Rep. Dan Kildee of Michigan said. “Scott Pruitt is not the EPA. Unless somehow things have changed, Scott Pruitt is the head of EPA means he’s the head of the Empower Polluters Always agency.”
“Your life-saving work is critical for our nation’s health, safety, and environment,” added Congresswoman Grace Meng of New York. “Your dedication as public servants is necessary to address so many issues like water pollution around the country to pesticide used on the food that we eat.
Meng went on to explain how Administrator Pruitt was trying to undermine the EPA, including attacking science to benefit polluters. But she assured workers that “You have allies in Congress like myself and my colleagues who are here today. We will continue to work with you and stand up against harmful legislation and rules that put our nation’s health and environment at risk.”
Under Pressure to Resign
Pruitt spent his entire career fighting against clean air and water regulations on behalf of polluters. As Oklahoma attorney general, he used his office as an extension of an oil company and sued the EPA 14 times. As EPA administrator, he proposed to slash EPA’s 2018 budget by 31%, or about $2.6 billion, and to get rid of 4,000 employees who dedicated their lives to fulfilling the agency’s mission and protecting community health in this country. He also wanted to cut more than 50 environmental protection programs and slash funding for cleaning up hazardous waste sites by 30%.
Pruitt’s now being investigated for various spending and ethics violations ranging from a $43,000 sound-proof phone booth to a $50-a-night condo rental from a lobbyist. EPA officials who tried to challenge his large spending were either demoted, reassigned, or forced out.
The administrator is facing mounting pressure to resign after nearly 170 members of Congress supported a resolution calling for his removal.
“They said they came here to drain the swamp. They drained the Treasury instead,” Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland said.
Raskin noted how Pruitt tried to use his motorcades’ sirens and lights to get around town, saying “Next time you’re speeding through Washington, keep going.”
Rep. Don Beyer of Virginia listed all Pruitt’s offenses, ranging from flying first class when the EPA foots the bill to having a 40-person security detail.
“Every day he stays is an embarrassment for our country,” he said.
To Moms Clean Air Force, a community of over 1 million moms and days against air pollution, the biggest scandal of all remains Pruitt’s attempt to undermine public health.
With their kids in tow, MCAF members showed up with a huge report card on Pruitt’s performance, which explained how the administrator has failed on subjects important to running the EPA. They gave him an F on Public Health (failure to understand subject), Science (unsatisfactory effort), and Ethics (multiple violations of honor code), and a D - on Geography (knowledge limited to oil country).
“As parents, we know the report card is unacceptable,” said Elizabeth Brandt. “He needs a time out. In fact, he needs a permanent time out.”
Both Democrats and Republicans need clean air
Nate James, president of AFGE Local 3331 representing EPA employees, has been working at the EPA for 18 years, and the past 16 months have been tougher than ever.
“We are here because we believe in the mission of this agency. We’re not politicians. We don’t care if you’re Democrat or Republican. You all need clean air. You all need clean water, and you all need safe land to live on. That’s our mission,” he told the crowd. “This agency was born by Republican president Richard Nixon. Our mission is to protect the environment and human lives. That is the sole purpose of our existence here. That’s what your tax dollars pay for. But right now it seems that our administration is more focused on what we can do to make life a lot easier for corporations than the American public. I have to speak out against that.”
Protect the people, not polluters
AFGE thanks the American people including members of Congress who gathered to show their support for EPA employees. Also speaking at the event were Reps. Salud Carbajal of California, Bill Foster and Mike Quigley of Illinois, Ruben Gallego of Arizona, Sheila Jackson Lee and Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, Alan Lowenthal of California, as well as by representatives from Green Latinos, the Environmental Integrity Project, and the Hip Hop Caucus. AFGE National Vice President for District 14 Eric Bunn Sr. also spoke.
For more information about Pruitt’s campaign against the EPA and what you can do, visit https://savetheusepa.org/