Federal employees at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are afraid President Trump may be reelected to another four-year term in November.
Career employees at the agency say that if Trump is reelected, a number of employees will choose to retire rather than work under the Trump agenda, unnamed employees told Business Insider.
“Holy s—, we can’t do four more years of this,” one employee told BI, describing the mood inside the agency under Administrator Andrew Wheeler. Another employee added “unquestionably, people are holding on and looking forward and counting the days.”
Gary Morton worked at the agency for 26 years before retiring in 2019 to become the head of a union that represents about 7,500 EPA workers.
“We had tears when this man won the election,” Morton said, referring to Trump. “He ran on a platform of killing the Environmental Protection Agency.”
Another union official said that the agency is not “recognizeable” anymore.
“I think that the rank-and-file EPA employees have tried their best to hold the principles of what EPA stands for,” said Nicole Cantello, who represents employees in the agency’s Chicago office. “But it’s been very difficult in the face of the unrelenting attacks and rollbacks that the Trump administration has implemented during these three years.”
Wheeler pushed back on the fatalistic mood projected on the agency and allegations that the agency is working strictly on behalf of industry. He pointed out that nearly half of the agency’s workforce, 40%, will be eligible to retire in the next four years. The administrator told BI that the Trump administration has done more to cut pollution and support jobs than during all of the Obama administration.
“We’ve actually, I believe, gotten more done in the last three and a half years than the Obama EPA did in eight,” Wheeler told BI.
Wheeler, who has run the agency since July 2018, touted a 7% reduction in air pollution in the United States since 2017. Critics contend that the reduction is from policies enacted under former President Barack Obama, but Wheeler says that is nonsensical.
“They can’t have it both ways,” Wheeler said. “The critics can’t say that our regulations are making the environment worse, and ‘Oh, it’s getting better, well then it must be somebody else who made it better.’”
Since 2017, the EPA’s workforce has decreased from 15,408 to 14,172, continuing a trend that began under former President Obama. Since 2011, staffing at the agency has fallen from 17,359 in fiscal year 2011 to 14,172 in fiscal year 2020, according to the EPA.
The agency has scaled back dozens of environmental regulations since Trump took office. According to a tracker by The New York Times, the EPA has cut back on, streamlined, or is in the process of reforming 100 regulations.
Earlier this week, the EPA announced it was reforming the landmark National Environmental Policy Act, which has been hailed by environmentalists as the “Magna Carta” of environmental regulations and derided by critics for adding onerous, often years-long delays on infrastructure projects.
The Trump administration’s Council on Environmental Quality has found that a typical environmental review for any significant building project requiring federal approval takes an average of 4.5 years to complete. For a quarter of projects requiring an environmental impact statement, the review took over 6 years.
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