By Nadia Prupis

An Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) employee stepped down after 30 years on the job last week with a letter to EPA chief Scott Pruitt that left no doubt about the reason for his resignation — Pruitt’s leadership and the Trump administration.

EPA administrator Scott Pruitt speaking at the 2017 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland. (Photo: Gage Skidmore / Flickr)

EPA administrator Scott Pruitt speaking at the 2017 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland. (Photo: Gage Skidmore / Flickr)

Michael Cox served as a climate change adviser to EPA’s Region 10, covering Alaska, Washington, Oregon, and Idaho. His resignation comes as President Donald Trump seeks to defund the agency by 31 percent, lay off 25 percent of its employees, and axe 56 programs — including two that focus on protecting children from lead—as revealed by a 64-page budget memo published last week by the Washington Post.

“I, along with many EPA staff, are becoming [increasingly] alarmed about the direction of EPA under your leadership,” Cox wrote to Pruitt. “I have worked under six administrations with political appointees leading EPA from both parties. This is the first time I remember staff openly dismissing and mocking the environmental policies of an administration and by extension you.”

“You will continue to undermine your credibility and integrity with EPA staff, and the majority of the public, if you continue to question this basic science of climate change,” he wrote.

Post columnist Joe Davidson spoke with several EPA staffers throughout the country, who confirmed that the mood at the agency was grim — so much so that they requested anonymity for fear of retaliation.

“It is pretty bleak,” said one environmental engineer.

“It’s in the dumps,” said another.

Cox’s letter continued:

I, and many staff, firmly believe the policies this administration is advancing are contrary to what the majority of the American people, who pay our salaries, want EPA to accomplish, which are to ensure the air their children [breathe] is safe; the land they live, play, and hunt on to be free of toxic chemicals; and the water they drink, the lakes they swim in, and the rivers they fish in to be clean.

[…] Good luck and just remember that EPA staff will respond to leadership that takes into account the science and the opinions of individuals who have devoted their entire lives to fulfilling the mission of EPA—to protect human health and the environment.

He outlined eight reasons that morale has plummeted at the agency, including Pruitt’s denial of climate science—which he called “surprising, no shocking”—as well as the administration’s antagonistic tone and “openly hostile” political appointees. Cox’s final suggestion to Pruitt was simply, “Please step back and listen to EPA career staff.”

“We understand that our positions may not always prevail, but please take the time to listen to expert voices that might differ from yours and your immediate staff,” he wrote. “You may be surprised that you can find common ground on many issues. The health of the American people and our country depends on you.”

This post originally appeared on Common Dreams and has been republished here under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.

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One Response

  1. W. Douglas Smith says:

    I am also a retired career EPA staffer. I was Senior Compliance Investigator and wrote the most commonly used inspector/investigator training manual used by EPA and the National Enforcement Training Center (NETI) in Denver. Pruitt’s cuts will hit compliance and grants hardest. These are the very programs that protect public health the most. It has long been established that the cost of clean up after a spill or discharge is far greater than prevention. Without inspections EPA becomes blind. After 30 years it became clear to me that without oversight by inspections the tiny minority of bad actors gains a competitive advantage over the good players. Soon the rotten apples spoil the pot and shoddy and corrupt practices multiply. Without oversight and enforcement industry tends to take the more profitable and easy route. We already experienced this in 2008 with banking and the great recession.

    It isn’t just EPA Administrator Pruitt but this President and crony politics. It isn’t even sound economics but fraud and corruption. Organized crime has made it to the big time using labor and middle class desperation and alt-right ideology to seek a superman. What they got was a fascist demigod at the head of a financial oligarchy operating outside conventional democratic politics.

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