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Daily News Blog

29
Jan

Tell Congress: This Is No Way to Balance a Budget; Trump Administration Set to Slash EPA Staff in Half

(Beyond Pesticides, January 29, 2018) Scientists, public health managers, and others charged with protecting the health of the public and the environment at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are being encouraged to exit the agency –as EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt plans to meet his goal of cutting agency staff and programs by 50 percent.

Tell your Congressional delegation that EPA’s staff and budget cuts are false economy!

Aides to Mr. Pruitt confirmed to the Washington Examiner that by the end of President Trump’s first term, the agency’s staff will be cut by nearly half. Administrator Pruitt told the Washington Examiner he was “proud” of his efforts to dismantle –some say cripple— the very agency he leads. This is false economy. It endangers the American public and its air, land, water, and biodiversity.

EPA is responsible for enforcing the Safe Drinking Water Act, with a goal of making the nation’s waters fishable and swimmable. EPA enforces the Clean Air Act, which has cleaned up American cities, reducing illness and property damage from smog. And EPA is responsible for overseeing the clean-up of contaminated sites, thus preventing further pollution and illness.
The agency also regulates pesticides under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA).

All of EPA’s programs require the application of science to public policy. Among the people who are being encouraged to retire —via “buyouts” and attractive retirement benefits to incentivize exits— are more than 200 scientists and nearly 100 environmental protection specialists.

Since the Trump administration took office, more than 700 employees have left EPA. According to the Washington Examiner, as of January 3, 2018, the EPA had 14,162 employees. In fiscal year 1988, when Ronald Reagan was President, the EPA employee level was 14,440. Twenty-three percent of EPA employees are currently eligible to retire with full benefits, and another 4 percent can retire at the end of 2018. Additionally, another 20 percentwill be eligible to retire in the next five years. Taken together, nearly 50 percent of EPA staff will be encouraged to leave, in one way or another, over the next five years. One administration official is quoted, in the Washington Examiner, as saying, “We’re happy to be at Reagan-level employment numbers and the future retirements show a preview of how low we could get during this administration. It would be fair to say that anywhere from 25 to 47 percent of EPA could retire during this administration.”

EPA has been plagued with budget constraints for many years, but now, with such drastic cuts (both personnel and budgetary), programs spearheaded by EPA to protect air, water, people, and wildlife from toxic pollution will suffer —a goal made clear by the Trump Administration. Eliminating resources needed to prevent problems means that more money will need to be spent repairing damage and treating disease.

Although, as documented by Beyond Pesticides, EPA’s regulation of pesticides is flawed, the agency plays a critical role in reviewing science and implementing laws protecting human health and the environment. Science itself has been under attack by the Trump Administration, as evidenced by its issuance of scientific grant and hiring freezes at EPA and other agencies nationwide, along with a ban on science communications through social media platforms. Under a dismantled EPA, experts say that even the limited advances made will be undermined. For instance, the neurotoxic pesticide chlorpyrifos, which endangers children, was proposed to be revoked in 2015 due to findings and recommendations of EPA’s own scientists and a 2016 Scientific Advisory Panel (SAP). However, one of Administrator Scott Pruitt’s first acts in office was to rescind the proposal, claiming more evidence was needed.

Though environmentalists and public health experts have criticized EPA for lax or inadequate regulation of pesticides, the clear attacks on public health and the environment through proposed budget cuts, by the Trump administration and EPA’s Mr. Pruitt, demand urgent action.

Tell your Congressional delegation to hold the line on EPA’s budget to protect health, resources, and the economy!

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

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