Public employees’ union leaders called a Trump administration plan to cut the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) budget by $2 billion “a declaration of war” on the environment.
“This is a declaration of war, a war on the environment,” John O’Grady, an EPA union leader and agency employee, told E&E news. “It’s a declaration of war against children with asthma, against women of child-bearing age, against the elderly.”
Trump is expected to ask Congress to cut EPA’s budget 24 percent and reduce the agency’s staff by 3,000 employees.
O’Grady works out of EPA’s Chicago office where about 30 agency employees took to the streets to protest the nomination of Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to head the agency. The Senate confirmed Pruitt in February.
EPA employees have been on edge since Trump won the election, expecting budget cuts and staff reductions as the agency’s regulatory role is dialed back. A handful of employees even started using encrypted text messages to coordinate resistance against Trump policies.
“People are nervous here, and this certainly doesn’t cause people to be less nervous,” said Joe Edgell, who’s also an EPA union leader.
EPA employees are represented by the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), the largest federal employees union. AFGE has also come out against Trump’s budget plans.
“Many of the federal agencies that would be targeted by these budget cuts already have been cut to the bone this decade as a result of harmful austerity policies,” J. David Cox Sr., AFGE’s national president, said in a statement.
Trump wants to cut some discretionary spending to fund a $54 billion increase in defense spending. Sources say EPA will face a 24 percent cut to its budget and the State Department will face a 37 percent cut.
EPA’s budget cuts will likely come from funds not tied up in grants to states and American Indian tribes for infrastructure projects and environmental clean-up. That’s about $3.5 billion, or 43 percent, of EPA’s $8.1 billion budget.
Cuts are likely to come from EPA’s $4.6 billion budget for federal programs, payroll and contracts. The Trump administration could cut EPA global warming programs, grants to environmentalists and some research funding.
The group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) is preparing to give legal assistance to EPA employees who get laid off under Trump.
“This is only the first year. So what’s in store after that?” O’Grady lamented.
Trump has already begun rolling back EPA regulations. The president signed an executive order Tuesday asking the agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to review the “waters of the U.S.” rule.
“Let’s start hiring those people, fellas,” Trump said at the signing.
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