EPA Staffing Falls to Reagan–Era Levels

Published January 29, 2018

Since taking over as head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Administrator Scott Pruitt has overseen a significant reduction in agency staff.

In his first proposed budget, President Donald Trump suggested cutting funding for EPA by approximately 30 percent. As part of that reduction, in June 2017 EPA announced plans to cut 1,200 employees by September 2017, to be achieved through a combination of buyouts and early retirements. Though falling short of that goal, Pruitt has reduced EPA by more than 770 employees, who quit, retired, or accepted buyout offers during his first year. EPA staffing is now at its lowest since the Reagan era.

Performance ‘Suffered Under Obama’

Environmentalists decried EPA’s proposed budget and the effort to shrink its staff, saying it threatens the agency’s ability to carry out its mission. Reform proponents argued Trump is taking EPA in the right direction, reversing actions the agency had taken over the decades to expand its mission beyond the functions assigned by Congress.

William Yeatman, a senior fellow in environmental policy, energy markets, and administrative law at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, says during the Obama administration, the EPA diverted resources from actions prescribed by Congress—such as updating standards and processing state implementation plans—to new programs of the agency’s own design, primarily related to climate change mitigation.

“EPA’s performance in the areas of environmental protection mandated by Congress suffered under Obama,” said Yeatman. “I reviewed more than 1,000 deadlines required by law during the Obama administration, and EPA missed 84 percent of its date-certain duties by an average of 4.3 years.

“For industrial sector-wide regulations, the agency was late on average by 7.8 years, while its reviews of state implementation plans were late on average by 1.9 years,” Yeatman said. “The cosmic irony is environmental improvement suffered as EPA failed to pursue the nuts-and-bolts actions necessary to improve air quality required by the Clean Air Act, ignoring them to pursue instead climate policies which won’t actually influence the climate.”

‘Back to Basics’

Yeatman says even with fewer resources and ongoing staff reductions, EPA could still improve its performance by focusing its efforts solely on the environmental programs expressly legislated by Congress.

“The EPA could still improve environmental performance and also spend significantly less taxpayer money by focusing on the things expressly required by Congress, instead of spending gobs of money on policies of its own choosing,” said Yeatman. “Rather than Congress leading the charge for a streamlined EPA, it’s EPA Administrator Pruitt at the reins.

“His ‘back to basics’ approach plainly understands by separating the wheat from the chaff, giving priority to clear statutory responsibilities instead of expansive statutory interpretations, the agency can achieve superior environmental quality at a much cheaper price,” Yeatman said. “I applaud his efforts.”

‘A Very Salutary Development’

The EPA staff includes a large proportion of biased activists, says John Dunn, a physician, lawyer, and policy advisor for The Heartland Institute, which publishes Environment & Climate News.

“Pruitt’s first job at EPA should have been to get rid of all Obama holdovers and the other staff who’ve collaborated with green organizations to push a big-government, anti-freedom agenda,” Dunn said. “This is a very salutary development; I couldn’t be happier Pruitt has figured out a way to make these people feel unwelcome.

“These were the people inside the EPA who were responsible for the grossly excessive regulatory activity and federal overreach Trump complained of as a candidate for president,” said Dunn. “They should have been eliminated from the government a long time ago.”

‘A Bunch of Corrupt Fanatics’

EPA staff have been sponsoring and funding junk science research for more than 20 years, Dunn says, so they could push their regulatory agenda, which is nothing more than a disguised form of socialism and expanded statism.

“For more than 20 years, they’ve used junk environmental science and public health claims as a way to control people’s behavior and tell them how to live,” Dunn said. “Nothing pleases me more than to see a bunch of corrupt fanatics leaving an agency that’s become entirely out of control. Hallelujah and praise the Lord!

“Let’s hope more employees leave or are forced out, because EPA still has way too many people to carry out the limited functions it is specifically required by law to do,” said Dunn.

Kenneth Artz ([email protected]) writes from Dallas, Texas.