Largest federal union slams Obama over agency cuts

Source: Emily Yehle, E&E reporter • Posted: Wednesday, February 5, 2014

In a letter to Obama, the American Federation of Government Employees drew a comparison between Obama as a presidential candidate and as president.In 2008, then-Sen. Obama cited an “ineffective allocation of resources” over the previous eight years at EPA that led to weakened enforcement of laws that protect Americans. Today, under the Obama administration, the agency plans to cut back on its workforce and in-person inspections to meet a tight budget.”My question to you Mr. President is, ‘What has changed?'” wrote John O’Grady, president of the AFGE chapter representing about 1,000 EPA Region 5 workers. “You had pledged to pursue ‘greater funding for the EPA so that its responsibilities are carried out.’ Instead, your representatives at EPA have disinvested in important programs that protected the public and environment.”

EPA is preparing buyouts for hundreds of employees in its regional offices in an effort to get rid of some high-paid positions and pare down the workforce (Greenwire, Jan. 30). The agency has also proposed cutting back on enforcement actions over the next five years, using technology as a way to keep an eye on potential violators without using the resources of a full-throttle civil or criminal case (Greenwire, Dec. 9, 2013).

But union officials say the agency is cutting in the wrong places. Officials should cut grants and other “pass-through” money rather than target the staff that ensures clean water and air, they say.

In his letter, O’Grady points to the administration’s acknowledgement that low-income and minority communities disproportionately suffer from pollution.

“Are you still committed to addressing the disparities that your Administration has acknowledged and recognized? How do the disinvestments and staff cuts at EPA address the disparities that exist, and produce the environmental justice that all Americans deserve?” he wrote. “Mr. President, please revisit your original pledge and live up to your word!”

Click here to read the letter.