In his day job, Catholic Labor Network Vice President John O’Grady serves as President of AFGE Council 238, the labor union representing EPA employees. O’Grady files this report from that embattled public agency:
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is reeling not only from the nomination of Scott Pruitt as the Agency’s next Administrator, but also from gag orders, the government hiring freeze, temporary holds on litigation and enforcement, as well as contracts and grants. While Mr. Pruitt states that the climate is changing, he believes our ability to measure with precision the degree and extent of that impact, and what to do about it, are subject to continuing debate and dialogue. Hogwash! All you need to do is look at the changes in the polar ice caps to know something is not right at the North Pole.
In 1999 EPA had a staffing level of 18,110 FTEs (Full-Time Equivalents); by 2015, the FTE level was under 15,000. Sixty-five (65%) of EPA’s budget is passed through in the form of contracts, grants, inter-agency agreements, etc., to states, tribal authorities, municipalities and contractors. EPA’s budget has been relatively flat over the past ten years and cutting EPA’s budget would cut into the ability of states and others to properly enforce environmental laws. Most states are already under heavy budgetary pressure and due to low salaries, have trouble holding onto their experienced staff. EPA has over 50 major and minor laws passed by Congress that must be enforced (e.g., Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, etc.). The question is, “How much do we value the air you breathe and the water we drink?” What’s truly important – a little extra profit for the corporations (which will not be shared with the employees), or an America that we can pass on to our children and grand-children? Remember – there is no ‘Planet B!’
O’Grady was among several government employees quoted in a Washington Post article describing the challenges of federal employees trying to pursue the legislative mandates of their agencies, even as some new Cabinet appointees seem intent on the opposite. To read Resistance from within: Federal workers push back against Trump, CLICK HERE.