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caption: Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt
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Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt

Trump administration starts slashing EPA without waiting for Congress

While President Trump was announcing that the United States would exit the Paris climate agreement in a ceremony at the White House, Environmental Protection Agency staff were being told to prepare for jobs to evaporate at the agency.

EPA has begun what it calls "a workforce reshaping effort" that could eliminate more than 3,000 jobs at the 15,000-employee agency.

An all-staff memo from acting deputy administrator Mike Flynn, who has worked at EPA for more than 20 years, said the planned cutbacks would include a limited number of voluntary buyouts. Any takers would have to leave the agency by September. Flynn said the plan would be submitted to White House budget and personnel offices for approval later this month.

As the memo (included below) was landing in staff inboxes across the country, EPA chief Scott Pruitt followed Trump at the podium in the Rose Garden and praised his boss.

“America finally has a leader who answers only to the people, not to the special interests who have had their way for far too long," Pruitt said to Trump. "Everything you do, you’re fighting for the forgotten men and women across this country.”

An opinion poll from Yale University actually shows a majority of the people in every state, including 70 percent of people in Washington state, favored staying in the global climate agreement. The survey was conducted in November.

Trump has proposed reducing EPA's budget by 31 percent, the deepest cut at any Cabinet-level agency.

“The president is imposing his will based on his expected budget before he even has a budget,” former EPA Northwest regional chief Dennis McLerran, who resigned in January, said.

Congress will decide the agency’s budget later this year.

The EPA has about 520 staff in its Northwest region stretching from Alaska to Idaho.

EPA’s workforce peaked in 1999 at around 18,000 full-timers. The Trump administration has proposed cutting the staff down to 11,500, the smallest since 1984, when the U.S. economy was half its current size.

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