The former leader of President Donald Trump’s EPA transition team said Thursday he expects the president to slash the agency’s budget and staff.
Myron Ebell, the director of the Center for Energy at free market group Competitive Enterprise Institute, told reporters that Trump is considering reducing by magnitudes the agency’s workforce. It currently stands at 15,000 employees nationwide.
“Let’s aim for half and see how it works out, and then maybe we’ll want to go further,” Ebell said, referring to his wish to see the EPA slashed by at least half. He left Trump’s transition team last week, but was at one time on the president’s short list to head the agency.
Half of the EPA’s budget is transferred to state and local areas to update infrastructure projects and environmental cleanup efforts. Ebell, who is a long-time EPA critic and climate skeptic, said the cuts would likely fall on the remaining half of the agency’s budget, which supports a portion of federal employees.
“President Trump said during the campaign that he would like to abolish the EPA, or ‘leave a little bit,'” he said. “I think the administration is likely to start proposing cuts to the 15,000 staff, because the fact is that a huge amount of the work of the EPA is actually done by state agencies.”
Ebell’s comments come after the Trump administration directed the agency to take down its global warming webpage, an anonymous EPA staffer told Reuters Wednesday.
“If the website goes dark, years of work we have done on climate change will disappear,” the staffer said. The staffer also said employees were scrambling to save data on the website.
The EPA was ordered Tuesday to hold back grants for projects and research on global warming, and instructed employees not to discuss spending freezes to the media.
Agency officials and Democrats, meanwhile, believe Trump’s animosity toward the EPA could lead to the president seeking to abandon the agency entirely.
Democrat have labeled the president’s nominee to head the agency, Oklahoma Republican Attorney Genreal Scott Pruitt, a “climate denier” and a shill for the fossil fuel industry. They’ve added to the chorus of environmentalists complaining about Pruitt’s appointment.
Trump, who once called global warming a “hoax” created by China to hurt American business, made axing what he called unnecessary environmental regulations a cog in his campaign message, especially in so-called Coal Country, where Obama’s Clean Power Plan has contributed to the shuttering of several coal power plants.
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