AFGE launches ‘Save the EPA’ drive

WASHINGTON—Saying massive grass-roots pressure on lawmakers to force them to protect the air we breathe and the water we drink would succeed, the Government Employees (AFGE) and two top environmental groups launched a “Save the EPA” campaign.

“The only way you can make sure that” cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency “don’t succeed is because people are screaming loud and clear from one end of the country to the other,” exclaimed Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., at the Sept. 12 press conference launch.

Besides the screaming Dingell seeks, the pro-EPA coalition’s drive will include a fly-in lobbying visit to lawmakers by thousands of Sierra Club members and phone calls from the estimated six million members of the National Wildlife Federation, leaders of those two organizations said.

There’s also a website, www.savetheusepa.org, and Facebook and Twitter pages devoted to “save the EPA,” too.

And the Environmental Protection Agency workers themselves will talk in their off-hours with friends and neighbors about how to rescue the agency from the massive budget cuts – 31 percent – Republican President Donald Trump proposed and the smaller cut (7 percent) the House’s ruling Republicans agreed to.

They’ll also discuss internal restrictions on workers and their mission, imposed by Trump EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, a former Oklahoma attorney general and militant environmental foe. A notable Pruitt order: No discussion or even mention of climate change.

The drive came as the GOP-run House worked its way through a comprehensive money bill, full of detailed policy prescriptions – called “riders” – affecting the EPA and other agencies for the year starting Oct. 1. That measure will later be melded with a Senate EPA funding bill and all will probably be rolled together in a third comprehensive measure covering from this Dec. 8 through next Sept. 30.

The speakers emphasized it’s not just a case of fighting against funding cuts. Between the slashes, which would force EPA to cut its workforce to 1980 levels and to kill programs, “This is about our children, our elderly and the victims of environmental injustice,” said John O’Grady, president of AFSCME Council 238, which represents the agency’s workers. “We have to bond together” to save the agency, the air and the water, he added.

The cuts are so widespread, speakers said, that EPA chief Pruitt wants to close the agency’s advanced chemical lab, smack in the middle of the chemical plants and refineries in Houston, right after Hurricane Harvey showed the vulnerability of those plants. They produced at least 1 million gallons of toxic chemicals in surrounding water.

And Dingell said Pruitt wants to close an EPA air quality testing lab in Ann Arbor, Mich., which has helped automakers reduce carbon emissions from car exhausts by 99 percent since the agency was established in 1970. Even the car makers want the lab to stay open, she said.

Source: PAI