Who is Watching Out for the EPA?

The agency will shed at least 1,200 jobs by September.

Who is Watching Out for the EPA?

A flag hangs over an entrance to the Environmental Protection Agency in Washington on April 22, 2017. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

According to The Washington Post’s Brady Dennis,

“[T]he Environmental Protection Agency plans on shedding more than 1,200 employees by early September through buyouts and early retirements, as part of a broader push by the Trump administration to shrink a government entity the president once promised to eliminate ‘in almost every form.’”

If you’re worried about exactly what’s going down at the EPA, look no further than the phenomenal project “The EPA Under Siege.” Subtitled “Trump’s Assault in History and Testimony,” this compendium charts the mountain of changes, rollbacks and slights that the EPA has suffered since the Donald Trump took office. Not only does this endeavor track the assault on the EPA, it also puts it in historical perspective, comparing Trump’s policies with those of previous environmental backsliders Ronald Reagan in the US and Stephen Harper in Canada.

The project is the brainchild of The Environmental Data & Governance Initiative (EDGI), “an organization comprised of academics and nonprofit employees that promotes open and accessible government data and information along with evidence-based policy making.” In addition to conducting the historical review and tracking Trumpian changes, the group interviewed 60 current and former EPA and OSHA employees. What they found was that that with the Trump administration, the agency “confronts its severest challenge yet”:

“Both Republican and Democratic presidents of the last half-century have helped build up or support our environmental agencies and laws, albeit via differing measure and means. With Trump, this bipartisan legacy, already increasingly under siege in recent years, confronts its severest challenge yet….

“Facing budget cuts and reorganization that could cripple enforcement activities, rulemaking, scientific activities and data and informational access, EPA officials we’ve interviewed testify to plunging morale inside the agency as well as considerable anxiety about its future. Even as the new agency Administrator Scott Pruitt promotes a “back to basics” agenda, longstanding career employees significantly doubt his and other political appointees’ commitments to the EPA’s fundamental tasks of protecting public health and the environment, and voice profound concerns about the new leadership’s approaches to environmental problems, especially climate change and industrial pollution.

“For all the bipartisan support or acceptance that the agency has enjoyed through earlier decades, pushback on the agency’s mission is also not new. As we will see, long-term employees remember a host of earlier challenges to funding and staffing as well as periodic political interference. Even as all these have intensified in recent years, most interviewees characterize the Trump effect at the EPA thus far as fundamentally different from that of any earlier incoming administration. One long-time employee described the Trump transition as “an order of magnitude different,” especially in its “overt hostility. “We’ve never experienced a transition like this,” another told us.”

“The EPA Under Siege” is a hefty read — printed, the document would run dozens if not hundreds of pages, and it is heavily footnoted. But it is worth the time and effort to peruse the charts, testimony and documentation that tell the story of a dark time for the EPA and the environment.

Explore the whole study.

Read more installments in our series “While He was Tweeting” — keeping an eye on Trump’s wrecking ball.