Polluters are having a field day as the Trump administration is putting in motion its plan to fully “deconstruct” the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
The administration has set a deadline to identify two regional offices to be closed by June 15. It will soon begin offering buyouts and earlyouts to employees as part of its plan to cut as many as 4,000 jobs. This will undoubtedly devastate efforts to protect human health and the environment in the country.
John O’Grady, president of the AFGE EPA Council representing EPA employees nationwide, questions the administration’s judgment.
“If the administration was interested in realigning the EPA, they would first conduct a thorough workforce and workload analysis. However, they will not do this because it would tell them that the agency is woefully underfunded and understaffed today,” he said. “Any further cuts will absolutely cripple the agency.”
O’Grady said there are no surplus positions in the EPA – that was taken care of in 1999 when the workforce was reduced from 18,110 to about 15,000 today. With a growing population, the EPA needs more people – not fewer – to protect our health.
But that’s unlikely to happen, considering a new memo from EPA leadership declaring that a hiring freeze will continue at the agency even though the administration has "lifted" the governmentwide freeze.
EPA has been Trump’s target since before he took office. On the campaign trail, Trump had vowed to get rid of the EPA “in almost every form.” And so as president, he picked Scott Pruitt to lead the agency, fully knowing that Pruitt "had built his career suing the EPA on behalf of oil and gas companies.
On March 31, the EPA announced that its $8.2 billion budget would be slashed by 31%, or about $2.6 billion. EPA’s workforce of 15,376 would be cut by 25%, or 3,829 employees. Vacant posts could be eliminated immediately. More than 50 environmental protection programs would be cut. Trump would slash funding for cleaning up hazardous waste sites by 30%.
With a policy like that, polluters will have free reign to maximize their profits at the expense of public health and safety.
Reports recently surfaced that one of the two EPA offices to be closed is the regional office in Chicago, America’s third largest city. The Region 5 office serves six states – Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin – and oversees several major health and environmental protection projects such as Great Lakes restoration, Flint drinking water clean-up, and other clean up projects. The administration has so far denied shuttering the Chicago office.
Closing any EPA office would likely cause an uproar in Congress. Upon hearing reports that the administration is shutting down the Chicago office, Michigan lawmaker Rep. Fred Upton immediately voiced his opposition.
"If true, this report is shocking and I would strongly oppose the closing of the Region 5 office. We must not turn our backs on the safety, health, and future of the Great Lakes,” he said. “Whatever the deficiencies of the Region 5 office, the folks there do play a critical role in protecting human health and the environment.”
AFGE President J. David Cox Sr. said closing EPA offices, eliminating 4,000 jobs, and not filling crucial positions will devastate the agency’s mission and hurt the American people.
“We’re asking the administration to abolish the plan.”