It’s getting hard out there for a tree-hugger:
President Trump is seeking to slash the number of workers at the Environmental Protection Agency by at least half, leaving it significantly gutted as the administration mulls further cuts, the former head of Trump’s EPA transition team said Friday.
“Let’s aim for half and see how it works out, and then maybe we’ll want to go further,” Myron Ebell said now that he has returned to his position as director of the Center for Energy and Environment at the Competitive Enterprise Institute. Ebell left the Trump transition team a week ago.
Ebell told the Associated Press that Trump is likely to seek significant reductions in the agency’s 15,000-person work force. Slashing half of the work force would leave 7,500 at the agency, which would dramatically reduce its capacity to move out regulations quickly.
Other reports say Ebell advised the Trump administration to make the staffing level to be on par with that 45 years ago when the EPA was started during the administration of former Republican President Richard Nixon. That would mean as few as 5,000 employees would remain.
“President Trump said during the campaign that he would like to abolish the EPA, or ‘leave a little bit,'” Ebell said. “I think the administration is likely to start proposing cuts to the 15,000 staff, because the fact is that a huge amount of the work of the EPA is actually done by state agencies. It’s not clear why so many employees are needed at the federal level.”
Back in the 1960’s we had serious problems with environmental pollution. The Cuyahoga river was so polluted that in 1969 it caught on fire. People began to worry that we would poison ourselves into extinction. This led to the passage of new laws and the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency:
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA or sometimes USEPA) is an agency of the Federal government of the United States which was created for the purpose of protecting human health and the environment by writing and enforcing regulations based on laws passed by Congress. The EPA was proposed by President Richard Nixon and began operation on December 2, 1970, after Nixon signed an executive order. The order establishing the EPA was ratified by committee hearings in the House and Senate. The agency is led by its Administrator, who is appointed by the president and approved by Congress. The current acting administrator is Catherine McCabe. The EPA is not a Cabinet department, but the administrator is normally given cabinet rank.
The EPA has its headquarters in Washington, D.C., regional offices for each of the agency’s ten regions, and 27 laboratories. The agency conducts environmental assessment, research, and education. It has the responsibility of maintaining and enforcing national standards under a variety of environmental laws, in consultation with state, tribal, and local governments. It delegates some permitting, monitoring, and enforcement responsibility to U.S. states and the federally recognized tribes. EPA enforcement powers include fines, sanctions, and other measures. The agency also works with industries and all levels of government in a wide variety of voluntary pollution prevention programs and energy conservation efforts.
In 2016, the agency had 15,376 full-time employees. More than half of EPA human resources are engineers, scientists, and environmental protection specialists; other groups include legal, public affairs, financial, and information technologists.
We cleaned up the water and cleaned up the air. So what does a government agency do when it solves the problems it was created to address? It finds new problems to solve. This is sometimes known as “mission creep”.
Even worse, the EPA is a magnet for environmentalist crusaders and tree-hugging true-believers. Working for Greenpeace is nice, but the government pays better and working at the EPA gives you actual power over those dirty polluters.
Last but not least, the EPA “conducts environmental assessment, research, and education.” That’s a lot of moolah that goes from Uncle Sugar to schools and advocacy groups filled with people who skew heavily leftward in their politics. In the old days that was called “patronage”.
In recent years the EPA has been expanding its reach:
For years, the EPA’s regulatory jurisdiction has been limited to the “navigable waters” of the United States, a term that has always been understood to include only large bodies of water capable of serving as pathways for interstate commerce. Regulation of all other waters was, rightly, left to the states.
Unhappy with the limited scope of the jurisdiction given to it by Congress, the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers have simply redefined the meaning of “navigable waters” in an extraordinary way, to include virtually every body of water in the nation right down to the smallest of streams, farm ponds and ditches.
The result of this startling grab is that virtually every property owner in the nation will now be subject to the unpredictable, unsound and often Byzantine regulatory regimes of the EPA. Worse yet, the states are cut out of the loop altogether, leaving landowners to lobby distant federal bureaucrats when the system wrongs them — and wrong them it will.
If your property has standing or running water even part of the year, the EPA is claiming jurisdiction. Meanwhile, EPA bureaucrats caused the pollution of the Animas River.
The EPA should not be shut down, but just like the rest of the federal government it needs to be pruned back.