Trump Keeps Campaign Promise to Scale Back Size of EPA

President Donald Trump / Getty Images
September 10, 2018

President Donald Trump is keeping a campaign promise to reduce the size of the Environmental Protection Agency, according to the agency's recent employment numbers.

On the campaign trail in 2016, Trump spoke about dismantling the EPA, saying, "We are going to get rid of it in almost every form. We’re going to have little tidbits left but we’re going to take a tremendous amount out."

Records show that in the first 18 months of the Trump administration, over 1,600 workers left the EPA and less than 400 were hired. This is an 8 percent decrease in the agency's employment size, the Washington Post reports.

Some agency employees cited Trump as a reason for their departure.

"I felt it was time to leave given the irresponsible, ongoing diminishment of agency resources, which has recklessly endangered our ability to execute our responsibilities as public servants," Ann Williamson, an EPA scientist based out of Seattle told the Post. She had been with the agency for 33 years.

EPA Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler said that almost half of all agency employees will be eligible for retirement in the next five years. He went on to say, "My priority is recruiting and maintaining the right staff, the right people for our mission, rather than total full-time employees."

Before leaving the position in July 2018, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt anticipated that by not replacing officials retiring by 2021, the size of the agency would be reduced by 47 percent, down to 8,000 jobs from 15,000.

The Office of Enforcement and Compliance, the law enforcement arm of the EPA, has shrunk 15.7 percent under Trump, according to data provided by the EPA. Regional offices have seen an employment decrease of 10 percent.

In January, an agency administrator told the Washington Examiner, "We're happy to be at Reagan-level employment numbers and the future retirements shows a preview of how low we could get during this administration. It would be fair to say anywhere from 25 to 47 percent of EPA could retire during this administration."

Back in February, the administration fought to reduce the overall budget of the agency by 25 percent. The current budget is around $8 billion.

The EPA is not the only department that has seen staff cuts under Trump. The State Department's permanent employee numbers fell by nearly 6.5 percent in the first 14 months of the administration. The Education Department's numbers fell by nearly 9.5 percent in the same period.