Hard times have arrived at the Environmental Protection Agency. It’s not just the budget and staff cuts which have the long time staffers down in the dumps. It seems that they feel the new boss, Scott Pruitt, as well as his boss, aren’t exactly onboard with the old agenda which they’ve grown used to over eight years under Barack Obama. According to this report from the LA Times, this has some of them feeling so glum and hopeless that they are thinking of leaving their plush, virtually fire-proof jobs and heading out in search of greener pastures. The pressure is such that Jared Blumenfeld, a regional EPA administrator, says his phone is “ringing off the hook.”
“The number one call I get everyday is, ‘Jared, can you help us find work somewhere else,’” said Blumenfeld, who ran the regional office of the EPA encompassing California, Nevada and Arizona until last May.
His advice? Don’t quit, fight. “I try to tell people that staying and doing your job at this point in history is an act of resistance, that if they leave, we will wind up with gaps in the system.”
That message is not always well received from employees now working for an administration that has openly accused the agency of producing junk science, pursuing a political agenda and abusing its authority.
The interesting phrase in Blumenfeld’s testimony is the idea that they would like to “find work somewhere else.” I’m wondering if that means that they’re looking for jobs in a different department of the government or out in the private sector. If it’s the former then they may be barking up the wrong tree. There are cuts taking place all across the executive branch and open spots are going to be hard to find. And aren’t your jobs somewhat specialized being in a department like the EPA? It doesn’t seem like those skills would immediately transfer over to transportation or health service, housing or any of the other cabinet level departments. If they’re talking about a private sector job, prepare yourselves for a shock. It’s a very competitive, results oriented environment out there in the real world and you can actually be fired if you are bad at your job, screwing off, watching porn at work or selling drugs out of your desk. It may be a shock to the system for some of you so I just want to make sure you’re prepared.
But not everyone seems to be sad about the reductions in both personnel and regulations at the EPA. There’s an excellent piece out this week at Reason from John Stossel in which he asks the beleaguered staff at the agency to simply give him a break.
Some of what regulators do now resembles the work of sadists who like crushing people. In Idaho, Jack and Jill Barron tried to build a house on their own property. Jack got permission from his county. So they started building.
They got as far as the foundation when the EPA suddenly declared that the Barrons’ property was a “wetland.”
Some of their land was wet. But that was only because state government had not maintained its own land, adjacent to the Barrons’ property, and water backed up from the state’s land to the Barrons’.
The EPA suddenly said, “You are building on a wetland!” and filed criminal charges against them. Felonies. When government does that, most of us cringe and give up. It costs too much to fight the state. Government regulators seem to have unlimited time and nearly unlimited money.
That’s only one of many EPA horror stories being told by Stossel. Those who have been following these regulatory nightmares which periodically show up in the news are probably already familiar with the Barrons. They wound up living in a trailer and going bankrupt, after falling hundreds of thousands of dollars in the hole from fighting the EPA. And they aren’t alone.
The agenda that the EPA workers are mourning was one which actually started out with good intentions but grew into a monster. Somebody eventually had to come along to slay the beast and we all knew the process wouldn’t be pretty and might produce some collateral damage. But they should also remember that they are employees, not policy makers. They are there to carry out the mission of the agency and that mission is now defined by Trump and Pruitt. If they don’t like it, I’m sure they all know where the door is, and any of them who leave will take some pressure off their friends who would like to stay at the agency.