Yesterday, EPA employees got a memo from Administrator Scott Pruitt's chief of staff ahead of President Trump's arrival to sign the executive order rolling back Obama-era climate change and energy policies.
- "This is an important moment for the EPA," Ryan Jackson said in the email memo (subject line: "Our Big Day Today") that explained options for viewing the event. It conveyed Pruitt's view that "we do not have to choose between environmental protection and economic development."
But outside EPA's big downtown headquarters, I spoke with a number of career staff who hardly shared the rah-rah vibe as Trump seeks to undo major EPA rules and slash its budget deeply.
- One called it "tone deaf" to unveil the executive order aimed at repealing climate measures at the agency (most orders are signed at the White House). "No one is excited about him being here, it's very discouraging," this staffer said, saying that colleagues are "horrified" by the event.
- A longtime EPA attorney said that even if Trump has policy differences with what the agency has been doing, the in-person appearance "feels cruel" as Trump seeks to dismantle things that "people have spent their lives and careers working for."
- One longtime staff member in EPA's Office of Water, which issued a big regulation that an earlier order has begun unwinding, said both the proposed budget cuts and the policy choices are on the minds of workers. "One hits home and one hits your profession and what you believe in," this staff member said.
Why it matters: This admittedly unscientific survey reveals how Trump's efforts to undo Obama's legacy are cutting against the grain at the agency. Undoing rules is a careful and time-consuming bureaucratic slog, so resistance among career staff to the Trump-Pruitt agenda could complicate the effort even further.
- "The action I'm taking today will eliminate federal overreach and allow our workers to thrive, compete and succeed on a level playing field for first time in a long time," Trump said.
Flashback: If you want more on the substance and impact of the executive order — which was signed by Trump flanked by coal miners, Pruitt, Energy secretary Rick Perry, Interior secretary Ryan Zinke and VP Mike Pence — we have you covered here and here.