- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has set aside $12 million for voluntary buyouts and early retirements in an effort to reduce the agency's workforce, E&E News reports. The news outlet obtained an internal budget document outlining the plan.
- Agency officials told E&E News that the program is similar to one President Obama enacted four years ago, which spent more than $16 million to reduce the workforce by about 450.
- Since taking office, President Trump has proposed slashing the agency's budget and eliminating a swath of regulations and rules. The White House's preliminary 2018 budget proposal would reduce the EPA budget by about 31%.
The EPA is moving to streamline the agency to "maximiz[e] taxpayer dollars," according to a statement, and it is not clear whether this is related to President Trump's new approach to the agency.
"Streamlining and reorganizing is good government and important to maximizing taxpayer dollars," EPA spokeswoman Liz Bowman told E&E Publishing. "It's a process that mirrors what the Obama administration EPA did about four years ago, to ensure that payroll expenses do not overtake funds used for vital programs to protect the environment."
But the proposal to induce early retirements and buyouts appears to fulfill campaign promises by the Trump Administration to gut agencies' workforces. In particular, Myron Ebell, the transition head for EPA, proposed to cut the agency's workforce by two-thirds over a four-year span. Critics fear slashing the workforce will hinder compliance with environmental regulations, particularly hamstringing regional offices.
While a budget compromise in late April sustained EPA funding through this year, the White House's "skinny budget" outlines significant cuts to the agency. Under the preliminary proposal, the EPA budget would be reduced by more than 30%, and the Department of Energy would receive about a 6% funding cut.
E&E News obtained an EPA internal budget memo calling for $12 million in “carry-over funds”to pay for the voluntary buyouts and retirements. Other expenses include almost $1 million for security for EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, and $1.4 million for cloud-based technology solutions.
According to the Washington Post, an "advance copy" of the EPA's proposed 2018 budget shows the Trump administration is moving ahead with its proposed agency cuts.