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Trump's anti-science agenda is driving a mass exodus from the EPA

More than 1,500 EPA employees left the agency during the first 18 months of Trump’s presidency.

By Caroline Orr - September 11, 2018
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Donald Trump

From the earliest days of Trump’s presidency, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been among the hardest hit by Trump’s anti-science agenda.

But environmental rules and regulations aren’t the only casualties. According to a new report by the Washington Post, the EPA lost nearly 1,600 employees during the first 18 months of Trump’s presidency.

At the same time, fewer than 400 new employees were hired, and many of them were pro-industry political appointees, not scientists.

This mass exodus has reduced the EPA’s workforce “to levels not seen since the Reagan administration,” the Post reports.

Many of those who left the EPA were serving in positions that are critical to carrying out the agency’s core missions. Included among those who’ve exited are 260 scientists, 106 engineers, and 185 environmental protection specialists.

In the EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance (OECA), 15.7 percent of employees — nearly one in six — departed during the first 18 months of Trump’s presidency and were not replaced.

As the former head of the office told the Post, those vacancies will have real world consequences.

“If you don’t have people to enforce the regulations, you’re not going to get enforcement, and you’re not going to get compliance,” said Granta Nakayama, former OECA director.

Some of the former EPA employees spoke with the Post and voiced their frustration with the Trump administration’s anti-science agenda, saying it was what drove them to leave.

“I did not want to any longer be any part of this administration’s nonsense,” said former EPA scientist Ann Williamson.

The Trump administration’s hostility toward environmental regulations created a work environment that seems designed to drive out committed career employees and draw in politically motivated industry insiders.

Under the leadership of former Director Scott Pruitt, the EPA worked to roll back critical environmental regulations that experts warn will speed up the rate of climate change.

In addition to unraveling climate-related regulations, Pruitt also moved to dismantle fundamental clean air and water mandates. According to Inside Climate News, during the first year of the Trump administration, the EPA took “at least 15 major actions on air pollution—all to delay, weaken or repeal protections, and all opposed by the American Lung Association and other health groups.”

During Pruitt’s scandal plagued tenure, the agency was also caught telling employees to lie about climate science, covering up the results of a major water pollution study, and scheming with big money donors to disseminate disinformation about climate change, among other things.

Perhaps worst of all is what happened when those employees left.

As revealed in a newly released cache of documents, Trump’s EPA orchestrated a disinformation campaign to smear the reputations of former employees who spoke out about the destruction of the agency.

Unfortunately for Trump, the sheer number of dedicated workers who’ve fled the agency makes a cover-up all but impossible.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.


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