It’s easy to criticize a company or organization you work for once you have already resigned or been fired. Former employees and high-ranking officials who have left the Environmental Protection Agency, most of whom have already secured a lofty pension, have made a habit of criticizing the Trump Administration’s proposed cuts and policies, often to much praise.
They should not be celebrated for stirring up feelings of dissent as they walk out the door. That said, feelings of adoration for President Obama’s treatment of the EPA are understandable. Under his watch, the powers of the department were expanded to unseen levels, granting its top officials the power to override states’ rights in a manner that many saw as unconstitutional.
Further, Obama simply diverted more taxpayer money to the department than any president before him. Obama’s first two years in office saw EPA funding that was more or less in line with his predecessors, hovering around the $7.5 billion mark. However, 2010 established the high-water mark for EPA funding since its creation in 1970. For reference, the 2nd highest funding year for the EPA, in 2011-also under Obama-, saw the department receive $8,682,117,000. In 2010, the EPA was assigned a whopping budget of $10,297,864,000.
That number would fall back to the $8 billion-range by the time he left office, but the powers granted to the department between 2008 and 2016 remained in place. With those powers and funding, the EPA accomplished little of note, while causing some high-profile snafus that rendered their title- Environmental Protection Agency- a punchline.
There was the Gold King Mine Spill in August 2015, for which several EPA contractors are currently being sued by Utah, New Mexico, and the Navajo Nation:
‘The EPA, along with contractors, accidentally breached a flooded mine near Silverton, Colorado, containing 3 million gallons of contaminated water. The incident sent a plume of yellowish waste containing lead, arsenic and other heavy metals rushing down the Animas river. The plume followed the Animas into New Mexico, merging with the San Juan river, and flowing into Utah and Lake Powell, the major storage reservoir in the upper Colorado basin.’
Mistakes happen, but that is one massive ‘mistake.' The states have yet to calculate the damages for an estimated 1 million tons of heavy metals being released into water used for drinking, agriculture, and recreation, due in part to the EPA’s incompetence.
Then there was the EPA’s role in exacerbating the Flint water crisis:
‘In a new report, the EPA’s inspector general finds that the agency “had the authority and sufficient information” to issue an emergency order that would have helped protect residents as early as June 2015.
While city and state officials had the primary responsibility to institute corrosion controls and, in their absence, protect residents from drinking lead-tainted water, the EPA failed as a backstop, according to the report.’
The EPA’s role in regulating fishing has been oft-criticized by local fisherman who say that, if anybody should be setting regulations on how many fish can be kept, it should be them. After all, they are the ones who spend the majority of their days and nights on the water, directly observing the abundance, or lack thereof, of a given species.
The coal industry has been decimated in the name of global warming under Obama through regulations enacted by the EPA, a major reason that many in the rust belt turned to Donald Trump to remove such income-crushing regulations. Many in the timber industry followed their coal-mining brethren in voting for Trump, for similar reasons. Farmers in California felt justifiable resentment for the agency after it allocated water for endangered fish instead of them.
This type of callous, blanket approach to policy which unabashedly favors the environment and animals over human livelihood has left a lasting, irreparable image of the EPA as incompetent, arbitrary in their measures, and disingenuously self-righteous. In combination with Democratic enablers in higher-government, the EPA has left one lasting legacy in many Americans’ minds: job crusher.
So, when President Trump proposed cuts to the EPA of over 30% of their budget, countless Americans applauded, or at least smiled in gleeful approval. How could they not? The EPA’s record is one that, in any private-sector industry, would have warranted its total disassembly and liquidation.
It is likely that cuts will never reach Trump’s proposed level, but the message sent was clear and definitive: wasteful government spending, particularly on agencies that have shown disdain for the average, hard-working American, will not be subsidized under this administration.
This has left the EPA’s 16,000 employees incensed and fearing for their jobs, and it’s easy to see why. Employees such as this guy:
‘the employee who was caught spending his workday watching porn on his taxpayer-issued computer. Because it is so difficult to fire a federal employee, this individual continued to draw his $120,000 paycheck, even after he was caught red-handed.’
And these ones:
‘Recent investigations have also uncovered EPA employees receiving unauthorized bonuses, committing fraud, and using agency credit cards for personal expenses. These abuses are in addition to ex-top official John Beale’s defrauding taxpayers of almost $1 million by skipping work, pretending to be a CIA agent, and former administrator Lisa Jackson, among others, conducting official business on secret email accounts.’
These ne’er-do-wells got used to their dishonest lifestyles, raking in unearned paychecks on Uncle Sam’s dime for years with impunity.
And, leadership within the EPA have long-embraced the idea that the agency is unequivocally a bastion of goodness, unable to see the abuses of funding and wholesale overextension of powers exercised in the past eight years. Even those that have genuinely noble intent in their capacity as EPA employees cannot help but see Donald Trump’s proposed funding cuts- and Trump himself by extension– as a threat to all of the EPA’s professed good deeds.
The result is a rash of employees who have left the department, trashing Trump’s decisions in internal memos and public statements on their way out. They include Elizabeth Southerland, a 30-year-employee of the EPA and former director of science and technology for the agency. Southerland, who was paid $249,000 after her bonus in 2016, will retain a lifetime pension which pays her 75% of her last three years’ salary until she dies.
Only after leaving the department with her pension guaranteed did she send the memo, the last breath for an employee long-residing over an incompetent, draconian agency while reaping a comfortable salary. Quite the martyr, I must say.
Her departure was preceded by that of Michael Cox, who decried “indefensible budget cuts” and efforts to “dismantle EPA and its staff as quickly as possible” after his resignation following 25 years of service within the EPA.
It’s well within these former EPA employees’ rights to espouse their distaste for the President’s cuts, and to turn in their retirement card when they feel they cannot amicably fulfill the head man’s orders in terms of policy.
But let’s not mistake for a moment their words as objective. These employees, as is called for by the EPA’s regulation-heavy modus operandi, are partisans who identify with the policies and principles of the Democratic Party.
We should not take what they say as a serious, sincere commentary on the President’s decisions regarding the Environmental Protection Agency.
For a serious accounting of the agency’s value and the long-overdue need for budget cuts, just look at the EPA’s record.