Republicans Are Making The EPA’s Work Environment Toxic

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By Irene Nazari

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt holds up a hardhat he was given during a visit to Consol Pennsylvania Coal Company’s Harvey Mine in Sycamore, Pa., Thursday, April 13, 2017. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

By creating a toxic work environment at the EPA, administrator Scott Pruitt is threatening the agency’s ability to address increasingly urgent environmental issues for us all.

In 2017, over 700 employees left the EPA and now many more are predicted to follow.  Trump appointee and fossil fuel enthusiast Scott Pruitt’s rollbacks of the WOTUS rule, denial of human caused climate change and many other attacks on the environment threaten our nation’s collective health and safety. However, what’s harder to see is how Pruitt’s attacks on the internal work environment at EPA, magnify the risk at every level.  

Since the beginning of March, agency leaders have started a widespread inquiry into usage of telework at EPA and many other government agencies. Why might this administration be asking for details about a work-life balance program started in 2010? Since their ignominious arrival in January 2017, Pruitt and his merry band from Senator Inhofe’s office (remember the R-Oklahoma senator who brought a snowball to the Senate to show that the existance of snow disprooved global warming?) have mostly been spending taxpayer money on buying-out first class plane tickets, posing for glamour shots wearing hard hats in coal country and making energy industry executives climax over the loosening of environmental protections.

Records show Pruitt has taken at least four flights on non-commercial aircraft, costing more than $58,000.

Sen. Jim Inhofe’s (R-OK) embarrassing attempt to disprove global warming with a single snowball was rightfully dismissed by the mainstream media — but it was applauded on Fox News

Now that they have a better idea of the internal levels of control, they have turned their attention to decimating the workforce.  Political heads are requesting that hundreds of work hours be spent unraveling the minutiae of telework usage. For each of the agency’s 14,000 employees they want details.   

Ironically, destroying the telework program at the Environmental Protection Agency and other government bodies would add tens of thousands of cars and commuters to the roads each morning.  The only thing certain about challenging telework at the EPA is that it will be directly bad for the nation’s air quality.

Why make EPA’s already demoralized workforce unable to work remotely? Despite their ludicrous campaign promises, this administration cannot figure out how to “drain the swamp”.  Any mass firings risk garnering public sympathy for the federal workforce. Cutting telework and other fringe benefits is an underhanded way to make everyone miserable and seemingly leave of their own volition. Aimed at the vital backbone of the agency, this move will simply force out the best and brightest employees who can easily find jobs elsewhere, employees about to retire, and those starting their careers. This impending brain-drain at the agency is compounded by a self-imposed hiring freeze that ensures no one can replace the personnel needed to keep crucial environmental programs running at full steam.

With this nefarious campaign to downsize EPA, Scott Pruitt is undermining the already precariously staffed programs we all depend on, with the blessing of Republicans in Congress and the White House. EPA supports disaster relief efforts, toxic waste clean-ups, air quality monitoring and so much more. The damage of rolled back, stalled and otherwise compromised environmental programs will likely take years to restore. Let’s all cross our fingers and hope that the Sooner State (Oklahoma)  doesn’t need any federal toxic waste clean-up programs in the meantime.

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