Washington D.C. – Among the 3,200 Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) jobs that would be eliminated under the 2018 budget outline proposed by the White House Thursday are committed civil servants who help enforce clean air and clean water laws, said Tony Reardon, National President of the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU).
“The proposed cuts at the EPA show a clear disdain for the mission of the agency. The work of EPA employees has led to noticeable and verifiable improvements in our country’s natural resources,” Reardon said. “A cut of this size is a huge step backwards in environmental safety and health and puts at risk the health of American citizens today and that of future generations.”
Reardon added that it also is an attack on the men and women who show up to work every day, including many who are veterans, with the simple goal of protecting the air we breathe and the water we drink.
The EPA was targeted in the administration’s budget for one of the largest reductions of any agency, a cut of 31 percent.
Congress has the final say over federal spending levels and NTEU has already begun to fight for adequate funding for the EPA and other federal agencies. During this critical debate over the appropriations bills, NTEU plans to highlight the contributions EPA employees make to the well-being of our nation, such as the people who work in the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, which the administration wants to cut by $129 million.
As the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance shrinks, the chances for pollution to go unchecked grows. Where states or tribal communities are unwilling or unable to combat health or environmental threats to their local communities, this office steps in with the weight of the federal government to do the right thing.
“With less federal oversight and expertise, the burden on the states increases and not every state has the willpower or the resources to do battle with industries or corporations that may try to skirt environmental laws,” Reardon said. “Gutting this office would be a setback in the progress we’ve made, under EPA’s leadership, toward a cleaner environment.”
This office also helps enforce the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act, better known as Superfund. Reducing Superfund by $330 million, as proposed, means fewer hazardous-waste sites are cleaned up and those cleanups that do occur take longer and could be less thorough.
“Surely everyone agrees that the faster we restore areas marred by toxic spills, the better, but this budget would hamper that process,” Reardon said.
NTEU also questions the proposed elimination of the Endocrine Disruption Screening Program at EPA, which studies the chemicals used in packaging, dishes, toothpaste, water, soap, pesticides and other products for how they affect the human endocrine system. For example, a study of the water in the Potomac River found that more than 90 percent of small mouth bass collected had both male and female sex characteristics because of the endocrine disrupting chemicals in the water.
“EPA is on the cutting edge of research into how our environment affects our health. This is exactly the type of science that our government should support and nurture, not eliminate,” Reardon said.