This letter is written to express support and thanks for the work you do every day to protect public health and the environment. We want you to know your dedication is valued by millions of Americans despite indication that the current Administration feels otherwise. Equally important, we also write to better inform members of the public who may not understand what a frontline role you play in preventing premature death, other avoidable health consequences, irreversible ecosystem damage, and yes, even climate change.
States, Tribes, and EPA play vital roles in protecting Americans and the environment from the impacts of pollution. In the late 60s and early 70s, our Congressional leaders created a system of environmental protection based on the principle of cooperative federalism. For this reason, and today more than ever, the safeguarding of our health and natural resources depends on robust state and Tribal programs as well as a fully functioning EPA.
In every part of this country, you provide vital expertise and guidance, in partnership with the states and Tribes, by setting pollution limits to protect public health and the environment, facilitating development of multi-state solutions to pollution, using sound science to inform and address complex environmental challenges, responding to extreme weather events and catastrophes, and assisting states and Tribes with monitoring, enforcement and compliance. All of these functions (and there are many more) create a level playing field among states and industry, which in turn guarantees a level of protection against harmful pollution for all Americans, regardless of where you live.
This is exactly what Congress intended. This is how environmental protection occurs in our country and is the reason why the air we breathe and the water we drink is cleaner now than at any previous point in our lifetimes.
This is also why it is more important than ever that Americans understand what you do and why you do it. EPA’s work is not done, far from it. The gains achieved in the last 50 years must be protected, and the new challenges that arise must be addressed.
There are dozens of different roles and jobs that you, as EPA employees perform, across the country. For example:
Maybe you are an emergency responder called to evacuate nearby residents and abate a potential crisis caused by improper mixing and disposal of toxic waste. Thank you for your expertise, for your ability to think on your feet, and for risking your own well-being to keep others safe.
Maybe you are a toxicologist who determines the safe level of toxic chemicals in air, water, and land to protect public health. Thank you for the rigor of your research, for your contribution to the body of knowledge regarding the health impacts of man-made pollution, and for your part in creating solutions to difficult environmental problems.
Maybe you work with communities to clean up Superfund sites and restore them to productive use. Thank you for your engineering expertise, your community involvement skills, and your creative redevelopment ideas.
Maybe you are one of the many people working behind the scenes to make EPA work - you run the IT systems, work in Human Resources, process grants and contracts, prepare budget and planning documents, or deliver the mail. EPA could not function without the commitment and professionalism you bring to the job every day. You are important and valued.
Maybe you are one of the attorneys who held Volkswagen accountable after it sold nearly 600,000 diesel cars in the U.S. that were equipped with devices designed to cheat federal emissions tests. By stopping this source of mobile pollution, you prevented at least 130 premature deaths, saved close to a billion dollars in avoided health and social costs, and leveled the competitive playing field for automobile manufacturers who don’t cheat. Thank you, counselor.
Maybe you are a scientist who monitors air and water nationally to assess trends in environmental quality and identify and stop new pollution threats before health impacts occur. Thank you for your well-designed monitoring strategies, statistical analyses, and commitment to communicate the facts.
We know that as EPA employees you are experiencing dramatic reductions in the funds and staff needed to do this important work; the repeals of many common sense rules that protect public health and safety; the removal of key science documents and technical reports from EPA websites and regulatory impact assessments; and the dangers of replacing objective, university scientists on Congressionally mandated science advisory boards with industry proponents.
But the work you do is too important to throw in the towel. The ways in which you contribute to the health of our society and the protection of our children’s futures are too numerous to list but here are some more:
Maybe you were one of the 150 employees with boots on the ground in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Irma. Thank you for assessing the safety of chemical facilities and Superfund sites after the storm, for getting wastewater treatment systems running again, and for testing the safety of the water supply.
Maybe you work to develop new rules, such as first-ever standards to cut climate-altering methane emissions from oil and gas facilities, and through careful analysis of science, economic, and technological solutions, you also develop policy initiatives to guide EPA toward a more innovative future. Thank you for the integrity of your rulemakings, and for remaining steadfast in your determination despite knowing that many of the common sense rules you worked to develop are now under attack. Please don’t give up.
Maybe you assess pesticides and other toxic chemicals in order to establish safe conditions of use and storage to protect public health and the environment. Thank you for your comprehensive risk assessments of impacts on people, plants, and animals.
Maybe you are an attorney who plays a critical role ensuring that decision-makers understand their legal obligations or who pursues enforcement, in partnership with the states and Tribes, when necessary. Thank you for your counsel, and for keeping the playing field level and fair when it comes to making sure the laws designed to protect us are followed.
Maybe you provide states and Tribes the technical and scientific assistance they rely on to implement the pollution control standards in the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and other federal environmental laws. As 39 former heads of environmental state agencies recently wrote to Congress, states rely on EPA to provide such assistance and cannot effectively run their programs without it. Thank you for your service.
Do not feel abandoned. Many public and private groups are responding to this assault on public health and safety. They are ensuring public awareness through accurate press coverage of the attacks on science and impacts of deregulation. They are fighting back in court against delayed and repealed regulations. They are requesting Office of Inspector General investigations. And they are filing scientific integrity challenges. Congress is also reining in this Administration’s agenda by modifying Mr. Trump’s requested budget, holding hearings, and initiating federal investigations. Please realize that you are deeply appreciated by the majority of Americans and are supported by organized and dedicated public and private groups.
Although quitting EPA is an understandable option in these difficult days, the American public relies on you. We as a society must build our future on the foundation of hope but do so with careful, insightful vision. In 1970, in his State of the Union address, President Nixon declared about the creation of EPA and the promise of the decades ahead, “the 1970s is a historic period when, by conscious choice, [we] transform our land into what we want it to become.”
Like the current Administration, President Nixon’s was flawed. But not when it came to understanding the clear and present danger of untempered industrial growth. EPA is meant to ensure that our country moves into the future with increasing prosperity and innovation without jeopardizing the health and well-being of Americans, American resources, and American treasures such as our national parks.
Progress without health and environmental protection is not progress – it is a ticking time bomb, where all are at risk but where the young, elderly, and poor are most vulnerable. The vast majority of Americans understand this.
So guard the gate, EPA employees. These may be the most trying but also the most crucial days of your career. We appreciate you, we admire you, and we look forward to relying on a strong and supported EPA in the days and decades to come. You protect our health, you protect our resources, and you ensure a safer and more truly prosperous future for all Americans.
In short, you matter.
With great respect and in solidarity,