"JOBS, JOBS, JOBS," the Trump campaign liked to say. But upon assuming office, one of the first things that Trump did was initiate a hiring freeze in the US federal government. And now, EPA has announced its plan to push out as many as 1228 people on its staff by the end of winter.
At President Trumps' behest, the US is joining Syria and Nicaragua in abdicating from the Paris Agreement, a coalition of 147 nations to combat climate change by reducing carbon emissions. While Trump faced heavy international pressure to remain within the agreement, from the Pope during his trip to the Vatican, China's President Xi and European leaders during the G7 summit, the GOP overwhelmingly opposed Paris from the get-go. EPA head Scott Pruitt has long argued that the United States' emissions reduction goal under Paris weakened the US economy.
According to the Washington Post, EPA sent out an email to union leaders this week to inform them that buyout offers would be coming soon and that the deadline to submit an application will be 2 September 2017. Retirement training webinars will also be available on every Tuesday and Thursday through the month of July. That may or may not be part of the training program Trump was talking about during the recent "workforce development week".
Trump and his EPA administrator Scott Pruitt have wanted to destroy the EPA for a very long time. Pruitt made a career fighting the agency and on the campaign trail, Trump said, "We are going to get rid of it in almost every form." So the 31 per cent budget cut to the agency that the administration proposed back in March isn't necessarily the worst case scenario. At the time, it was estimated that 3200 employees would lose their jobs, so it could be worse. Right?
For now, the agency is only talking about buyouts, and according to Pruitt, "About 20 per cent of the agency is eligible for retirement today." Maybe this move will be fairly painless for the staff. Maybe those who can retire will simply take the offer and walk away. But according to a spokesperson, only $US12 million ($15.8 million) has been set aside for compensation. When the agency had to purge employees back in 2014 because of budget cuts, it paid out $US11.3 million ($14.9 million) to encourage 456 employees to leave.
Fun fact: Earlier this month Pruitt claimed that the administration has "added almost 50,000 jobs in the coal sector. In the month of May alone, almost 7000 jobs." That was entirely false and the actual number is 1300 according to PolitiFact. So, between those additional coal industry positions and the eliminations coming to the EPA, the American economy gains a whopping 72 jobs.
The cuts represent around eight per cent of the EPA's staff. And from Pruitt's perspective, all those employees won't be necessary because the US is not going to protect the environment any more. He has been promoting an agenda that he likes to call "EPA originalism". In his view, this basically means cleaning up environmental waste and making sure that people have safe drinking water. Thomas Jorling, a former Senate Republican staffer and co-author of the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act, tells Politico, "It's all basically a smokescreen to their real intention, which is kind of a moral and ethical corruption, to… restore the dependence of the United States energy system on fossil fuels."