Shrinking EPA concerns landscapers dealing with agency

Myron EbellMyron Ebell

As President Donald Trump continues to move forward with his plans to reduce federal regulations, dire predictions are being made about the Environmental Protection Agency’s staff.

The landscaping industry has long been concerned about underfunding of the arm of EPA that oversees pesticide use in the landscape. It appears that issue may become even more pressing under the new president.

Myron Ebell, former head of Trump’s EPA transition team, has suggested cutting the agency’s workforce to 5,000 and the budget in half over the next four years. While his advice is his own, his beliefs line up with those of Trump and his directive to freeze federal hiring and reduce government regulations.

“My own personal view is that the EPA would be better served if it were a much leaner organization that had substantial cuts,” Ebell told The Washington Post.

He argues drastic cuts would prevent the EPA from “regulatory overreach.” He believes cutting 10,000 employees might be extreme but notes Congress won’t make significant cuts unless you ask for them.

Ebell is director at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a small-government think tank that has characterized global warming as a fad and product of alarmism.

A transition team news release quotes Trump as saying the EPA has had “an out-of-control anti-energy agenda.”

Ebell believes “EPA is looking at a significant cut every year for the duration of the Trump administration.”

While Ebell might not have the final call on the matter, he does serve as a good indicator of what is to come. Because Trump will leave in place EPA’s grants to the states for environmental infrastructure – grants that make up about half of the agency’s budget – a reduction in EPA staff appears inevitable.

Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) is already preparing for the worst, setting aside staff and funds to assist EPA employees who are terminated.

“At PEER, we are reviewing reduction-in-force and other rules governing the fate of employees squeezed out by tightened purse strings,” said Jeff Ruch, PEER’s executive director. “We are preparing to transform our organization into a civil service M.A.S.H. unit should the worse befall.”

EPA employees are not the only ones who would be affected by the drastic changes at EPA, according to Scott Slesinger, legislative director of the Natural Resources Defense Council.

“(It) would cripple environmental protection across the board, putting at risk the health and well-being of every man, woman and child in our country,” he said. “We’d face greater exposure to contaminated drinking water, toxic air pollution, unsafe pesticides, stalled Superfund cleanups, hazardous oil and waste spills and a host of other dangers – not the least of which is dangerous climate change.”

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