Based on several interviews with current Environmental Protection Agency staffers around the country, The Washington Post concludes that it’s “a workforce demoralized by President Trump’s and [EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt]’s statements that conflict with science.” Words like “bleak” and “distressed” and “alcoholism” are peppered throughout the piece, as employees describe anxiety over the drastic proposed cuts to the agency.
All who spoke feared retaliation and would not allow their names to be used.
“It is pretty bleak,” one staffer, an environmental engineer, said about employee morale.
“It’s in the dumps,” said another.
“Pretty much everybody is updating their resumes. It’s grim,” added a third.
This reporting is pretty consistent with my own. Over the last two months, several current EPA staffers have expressed a desire to remain at the agency as long as possible, despite Trump’s pledge to cut the workforce by 3,200 people. “Most of us are here because we are deeply committed to the agency’s mission” to protect human health and the environment, one staffer at EPA’s D.C. headquarters told me last month. Others are throwing in the towel. “They’re so demoralized,” former Region 2 EPA administrator Judith Enck said of her friends still at the agency. “A whole bunch want to leave, but they can’t find jobs to pay a living wage.”
Demoralization at EPA extends beyond the more environmentalist-minded employees. At least one member of the agency’s political team has resigned, signaling that Pruitt’s aggressive deregulatory agenda hasn’t been aggressive enough. Depression, it seems, is descending on both sides.
A workforce this unhappy could negatively impact the agency’s ability to get things done, former EPA administrator Christine Todd Whitman told me. “EPA career staff have ways of getting information out if they don’t like what the administrator is doing,” she said. “They have friends on the Hill they can go to. They can slow things down. They can make things really uncomfortable.”