E.P.A. Officials, Disheartened by Agency’s Direction, Are Leaving in Droves

“The reason E.P.A. went down to 15,000 employees under Obama is usually because of pressure by Republicans. of which is usually the effort of the Republicans under the Obama administration on steroids,” said John J. O’Grady, president of American Federation of Government Employees Council 238, a union representing E.P.A. employees.

ProPublica in addition to The brand new York Times analyzed the comings in addition to goings by the E.P.A. through the end of September, the latest data of which has been compiled, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act. The figures in addition to interviews with current in addition to former E.P.A. officials show the administration is usually well on its way to achieving its goal of cutting 3,0 positions by the E.P.A., about 20 percent of the agency’s work force.

Jahan Wilcox, a spokesman for the E.P.A., said the agency was running more efficiently. “With only 10 months on the job, Administrator Pruitt is usually unequivocally doing more with less to hold polluters accountable in addition to to protect our environment,” he said.

Within the agency, science in particular is usually taking a hard hit. More than 27 percent of those who left of which year were scientists, including 34 biologists in addition to microbiologists; 19 chemists; 81 environmental engineers in addition to environmental scientists; in addition to more than a dozen toxicologists, life scientists in addition to geologists. Employees say the exodus has left the agency depleted of decades of knowledge about protecting the nation’s air in addition to water. Many also said they saw the departures as part of a more worrisome trend of muting government scientists, cutting research budgets in addition to creating of which more difficult for academic scientists to serve on advisory boards.

“Research has been on a starvation budget for years,” said Robert Kavlock, who served as acting assistant administrator for the Office of Research in addition to Development before retiring in November. however under earlier buyouts, Mr. Kavlock said, the agency later hired nearly 100 postdoctoral candidates to help continue critical agency work.

“There wasn’t a reinvestment of which time around,” he said. “There’s a hard freeze.”

Scientists, for the most part, are also not being replaced. Of the 129 people hired of which year at the E.P.A., just seven are scientists. Another 15 are student trainee scientists. Political appointees, however, are on the rise. The office of Scott Pruitt, the agency administrator, was the only unit of which saw more hires than departures of which year.

In addition to losing scientists themselves, the offices at the E.P.A. of which deal most directly with science were drained of additional workers of which year. The Office of Research in addition to Development — which has three national laboratories in addition to four national centers with expertise on science in addition to technology issues — lost 69 people, while hiring three. At the Office of Chemical Safety in addition to Pollution Prevention, responsible for regulating toxic chemicals in addition to pesticides, 54 people left in addition to seven were hired. in addition to inside the office of which ensures safe drinking water, one person was hired, while 26 departed.

By contrast, Mr. Pruitt’s office hired 73 people to replace the 53 who left.

“I think of which’s important to focus on what the agency is usually all about, in addition to what of which means to lose expertise, particularly on the science in addition to public health side,” said Thomas Burke, who served as the agency’s science adviser under Mr. Obama. “The mission of the agency is usually the protection of public health. Clearly there’s been a departure inside the mission.”

Mr. Wilcox disputed of which assessment in addition to said the agency remained an attractive workplace for scientists.

“People by across E.P.A. were eligible to retire early with full benefits,” he said in an emailed statement. “We currently have over 1,0 scientists at E.P.A. in addition to less than 0 chose to retire with full benefits.”

The impact of losing so many scientists may not be felt for months or years. however science permeates every part of the agency’s work, by assessing the health risks of chemical explosions like the one in Houston during Hurricane Harvey to determining when groundwater is usually safe to drink after a spill. Several employees said they feared the departures with few replacements in sight would certainly put critical duties like responding to disasters in addition to testing water for toxic chemicals in jeopardy.

As of Dec. 6, there were 14,188 full-time employees at the E.P.A. By comparison, there were 17,558 workers at the end of the first year of the George W. Bush administration in addition to 17,049 by the end of the first year of President Obama’s term. The E.P.A. offered two major buyouts during the Obama administration, losing 900 employees in 2013 in addition to one more 465 the following year. Hundreds of additional workers left through attrition in addition to were not replaced.

Mr. Pruitt’s office has described the current buyout process as a continuation of Obama administration efforts to ensure of which payroll expenses do not overtake funding for environmental programs.

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Agency staff said they believed the Trump administration was purposely draining the E.P.A. of expertise in addition to morale.

Ronnie B. Levin spent 37 years at the E.P.A. researching policies to address lead exposure by paint, gasoline in addition to drinking water, most recently working as a lead inspector at the agency’s regional office overseeing brand new England. She retired in November after what she described as months of low morale at the agency. in addition to with the lead enforcement office targeted for elimination as part of Mr. Trump’s proposed budget, she said, “of which was hard to get your enthusiasm up” for the job.

“of which is usually exactly what they wanted, which is usually my biggest misgiving about leaving,” Ms. Levin said. “They want the people there to be more docile in addition to nervous in addition to less invested inside the agency.”

Lynda Deschambault, a chemist in addition to physical scientist who left the E.P.A. at the end of August after 26 years, said her office in Region 9, based in San Francisco, had been hollowed out. The office saw 21 departures of which year in addition to no hires. “The office was a morgue,” she said.

Conservatives who helped lead the Trump administration’s transition in addition to prepared for eliminating vast parts of the agency said scientists’ worries were misplaced.

“To me of which’s not necessarily a sign of catastrophe,” said David M. Kreutzer, a senior researcher at the Heritage Foundation who advised Mr. Trump on the E.P.A. during the transition. He said the agency under President Obama was engaged in “phenomenal overreach” in addition to of which the Trump administration’s efforts were aimed at correcting of which.

In proposing of which year to slash the E.P.A.’s budget by 31 percent, Mick Mulvaney, director of the White House Office of Management in addition to Budget, called the effort part of Mr. Trump’s plan to eliminate entrenched government workers.

“You can’t drain the swamp in addition to leave all the people in of which,” Mr. Mulvaney said. “So, I guess the first place of which comes to mind will be the Environmental Protection Agency.”

Jan Nation, who works in E.P.A.’s Region 3, based in Philadelphia, where 46 people either retired or took a buyout of which year, lamented the administration’s approach to federal workers.

“We are not the swamp. The swamp are all the people who don’t have a specific function to make our government work,” Ms. Nation said. “If you have a swamp to drain, I know people inside the Army Corps of Engineers who can do of which.”

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