Tears, Angst And Retirement Plans As EPA Staff Brace For Trump Takeover

  • Date: 12/11/16
  • Robin Bravender and Kevin Bogardus, E&E News

U.S. EPA employees were in tears. Worried Energy Department staffers were offered counseling. Some federal employees were so depressed, they took time off. Others might retire early.

And some employees are in downright panic mode in the aftermath of Donald Trump’s victory.

“People are upset. Some people took the day off because they were depressed,” said John O’Grady, president of American Federation of Government Employees Council 238, a union that represents thousands of EPA employees. After Election Day, “people were crying,” added O’Grady, who works in EPA’s Region 5 office in Chicago. “They were recommending that people take sick leave and go home.”

EPA employees stand to see some of the most drastic changes under the Trump administration, and they may be taking things a bit harder than other government workers.

The president-elect has vowed to repeal some of the rules they’ve toiled on for the last eight years during the Obama administration, including the Clean Power Plan rule to cut power plants’ greenhouse gas emissions.

Trump has even suggested abolishing the agency entirely, although that would be an uphill political climb. Trump has picked a top climate change skeptic to lead his EPA transition team — Myron Ebell of the Competitive Enterprise Institute — and has promised sweeping reforms in the agency that’s long been a target for industry groups and Republicans who say its rules overreach.

“If you look at the seven stages of grief, I’m still in denial. I will not look at the news. I will not read the news,” said an EPA career employee.

Another EPA staffer said, “I don’t actually know anybody here that was supporting Trump.” That person said people are “worried” that their work over the last eight years will be unraveled. “It’s always a time of uncertainty” when a new administration comes in, the employee said, and there were fears when the George W. Bush administration came into office, too. But “people are more worried this time,” the person added.

Silvia Saracco, head of a union chapter that represents EPA employees in North Carolina’s Research Triangle Park, said, “There is a lot of angst out there, nervousness.”

Some DOE employees are feeling glum, too.

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