When President Donald Trump announced his proposed budget last month, he included a large cut to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Naturally, cries that his administration is waging a “war on science” ensued. But in all honestly, the EPA really could use some trimming.
Staff scandals wracked the EPA throughout President Obama’s tenure, and when the government “shut down” in 2013, only 7 percent of EPA staff were considered essential.
Here are nine reasons why cutting the EPA, as Trump has suggested, is not such a bad thing after all.
1. 15,000 non-essential workers.
When Texas Senator Ted Cruz famously ended the world by “shutting down the government” in 2013, Obama’s EPA revealed just how much fat there was to trim. As Reuters reported toward the end of September, “The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will take one of the biggest hits of any federal agency if the government shuts down this week, operating with under 7 percent of its employees, according to guidance issued by the agency.”
That’s right — less than 7 percent of the EPA’s staff were deemed “essential.” The EPA “said its plan for dealing with a shutdown would classify 1,069 employees, out of 16,205, as essential. These employees would continue to work if Congress fails to secure a budget deal by midnight Monday to avoid disruption to federal funding.”
By the Obama EPA’s own logic, 15,136 of the agency’s 16,205 employees were not “essential.” That suggests a great deal of wiggle room.
Coincidentally, many employees have seemingly singled themselves out by their own behavior.
2. Watching porn, six hours a day.
Worse, the employee kept his job, which pays $120,000 per year. As EPA Facts reported, “The employee is still receiving his $120,000 salary, continues to have access to EPA computers, and has recently received performance bonuses, according to testimony at yesterday’s Oversight Committee hearing on the EPA.”
Call me old-fashioned, but I don’t think that kind of behavior should be acceptable for a high-ranking government official.
3. Hiring friends and family as paid interns.
Here’s another stellar example of above board work at the EPA. Renee Page, director of the EPA’s Office of Administration “hired 17 of her family members and friends as paid interns,” the Daily Caller reported in 2014. “She also paid her daughter — who also works at the EPA — from her agency’s budget account.”
Interestingly, “instead of being punished, Page received a prestigious Presidential Rank Award in 2010, for which she got $35,000 in cash.”
It’s all about who you know, am I right?
4. Weed on the job.
“An EPA employee allegedly was cited for attempting to bring approximately three grams of marijuana and two marijuana pipes through the security checkpoint at an Internal Revenue Service facility in Denver, Colorado, and arrested on an active warrant for failure to appear,” the EPA inspector general reported in August 2015.
An investigation confirmed that this EPA worker had appeared in the U.S. District Court and was found guilty of one count of possession of marijuana on federal property. “The employee was sentenced to a 3-day suspended sentence, 12 months’ unsupervised probation and 20 hours of community service, and was ordered to pay a $2,500 fine.”
So, watching porn — nothing. Hiring friends and family — a raise. Possession of marijuana — “suspended from the EPA for 21 days without pay.” But then reinstated? Maybe he was punished enough, but when the agency is trimming anyway…
5. Purchasing an iPad on the taxpayers’ dime.
Also in 2015, the EPA inspector general reported that an EPA employee “allegedly improperly used an EPA purchase card to order an iPad for personal use.” The allegation was substantiated, and the EPA suspended the employee for 45 days without pay, between March and June of 2015.
6. DUIs on the clock.
No, seriously. “Police arrested an EPA employee for driving under the influence while telecommuting, according to the [inspector general],” the Daily Caller reported last year. On another occasion, the same employee was arrested while driving to work intoxicated, and even had a third DUI arrest on record.
“The IG found the employee bought and drank alcohol during regular work hours ‘for several years.’ The EPA allowed the employee to retire before termination.” Government just has to put those drunk driver employees first — they have rights, after all.
7. An illegal “rogue law enforcement agency.”
Seriously, this reads like a spy novel, but I swear it’s from the Associated Press. “A unit run by President Barack Obama’s political staff inside the Environmental Protection Agency operates illegally as a ‘rogue law enforcement agency’ that has blocked independent investigations by the EPA’s inspector general for years, a top investigator told Congress.”
“The office of about 10 employees is overseen by EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy’s office, and the inspector general’s office is accusing it of impeding its independent investigations into employee misconduct, computer security and external threats, including compelling employees involved in cases to sign non-disclosure agreements,” the AP added.
Wow. Talk about intelligence scandals.
8. Time and attendance fraud.
Yet another inspector general report, this time from 2014, found an EPA inspector general employee committing timecard fraud “by claiming to be physically present in the office when he actually was not.” The agency found that from September 10 to November 30, 2012, “the employee was not physically present in the office 59 percent of the required and reported time.”
The employee was suspended without pay for 12 days, placed in absent without leave status for 27.25 hours, and was required to pay $1,149. Still, why keep such actors?
9. An infamous gym membership.
Finally, an EPA official in Las Vegas, Nev. (of all places) used his government credit card to purchase $14,799 in gym memberships, according to documents released by Americans for Tax Reform (ATR). EPA contracting officer Kevin Broadnax reportedly bought 37 year-long memberships on April 11, 2017.
Damningly, the Daily Caller reported, “The sheer amount of paperwork related to the transaction suggests that multiple EPA officials were aware of the purchase.”
Interestingly, Las Vegas EPA employees already have access to an award-winning gym at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas (UNLV).
“Those apologists who pretend that reducing waste and corruption in the EPA is an attack on Mother Earth stand exposed as the frauds they are,” Grover Norquist, ATR’s president, told the Daily Caller. “Ending corruption and self-enrichment is good for the environment and other living things.”
Finally, contrary to the fears of anti-Trump activists, the president’s EPA administrator, Scott Pruitt, is dedicated to the agency’s mission of environmental protection. On Wednesday, he became the first EPA administrator to visit the USS Lead Superfund in East Chicago, to discuss cleanup and hear directly from residents affected by lead contamination in their community.
The area was listed on the National Priorities List of the worst contaminated sites in the country in 2009.
“I’m focused on getting EPA back to the basics of promoting human health and the environment, and one of my top priorities is delivering real results for the people of East Chicago,” Pruitt declared in a statement.
Trimming the EPA is a laudable goal, and necessary to ensure taxpayer money is not wasted. These abuses from the Obama administration emphasize just how important real EPA reform is, and that it has nothing to do with waging a “war on science.”