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EPA Reaching Lowest Staffing Levels Since Reagan

by Countable | 9.7.17

What’s the story?

Since August 31, nearly 400 employees have left the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The vast majority took buyout offers targeted at reducing staffing levels, while about a dozen retired. Another 3 dozen are retiring at the end of September. The administration does not plan to replace these positions, which means the agency will soon have staffing levels that haven’t existed since the last year of the Reagan administration.

Why does it matter?

The Wall Street Journal reports that Scott Pruitt, the head of the EPA, stated the departures are consistent with the administration’s goals to shrink the agency:

"We’re giving long-serving, hardworking employees the opportunity to retire early. We’re proud to report that we’re reducing the size of government, protecting taxpayer dollars and staying true to our core mission of protecting the environment and American jobs."

Some critics of the move worry that the shrinking of the EPA workforce will make it near impossible for the agency to meet its regulatory obligations. Other critics question whether the buyouts are an effective use of taxpayer money.

According to a letter sent to employees by the National Treasury Employees Union Chapter 280, which was obtained by E&E News, 1,227 buyout offers were made this summer, to be accepted by September 2. Of those, EPA’s Office of Research and Development received the highest number of buyouts at 183. The Office of Administration and Resource Management was offered 98 buyouts; the Office of Land and Emergency Management received 94.

Regional offices also received significant numbers of buyout offers. The Region 6 office in Dallas, primarily responsible for monitoring the impacts following Hurricane Harvey, received 147 buyout offers.

How many of the buyout offers accepted in each office is unclear. Agency officials told the Journal that "agency leaders designed the buyout plan so it wouldn’t leave them with too few people to respond to any unforeseen natural disasters."

What do you think?

Do you think this is the right time to "shrink" the EPA? Should the administration be pursuing cuts at the EPA in light of the disastrous effects of Hurricane Harvey and the likely effects from Hurricane Irma? Do you think the work of the EPA to regulate toxic releases into the environment, enforce environmental controls, research energy strategies, and address climate changes is important or not? Do you think they will be able to do that successfully with reduced staffing numbers?

Tell us what you think in the comments, then use the Take Action button to tell your reps!

— Asha Sanaker

(Photo Credit: Pixabay / Creative Commons )

Related Reading:

EPA under Trump shrinks to near Reagan-era staffing levels — Washington Post

EPA plans to buy out more than 1,200 employees this summer — Washington Post

EPA Wants 1,200 Employees to Accept Buy Outs, Early Outs — Government Executive

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