Biden’s climate actions ‘sets this country back’: American Petroleum Institute CEO
American Petroleum Institute CEO Mike Sommers points out the ‘irony’ of Biden’s energy actions, arguing ‘it sets this country back, particularly from an environmental perspective.’
Polluting factories go uninspected by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Leadership positions sit vacant at the U.S. Geological Survey’s climate science centers. And U.S. Department of Agriculture research into environmental issues important to farmers is unfinished.
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The ranks of scientists who carry out environmental research, enforcement and other jobs fell in several agencies — sharply in some — under former President Trump, federal data shows. Veteran staffers say many retired, quit or moved to other agencies amid pressure from an administration they regarded as hostile to science and beholden to industry.
That poses a challenge for President Biden, who must rebuild a depleted and demoralized work force to make good on promises to tackle climate change, protect the environment and reduce pollution that disproportionately affects poor communities and communities of color.
“It’s going to take a long time to undo the damage that the Trump administration has done,” said Kyla Bennett, a former EPA enforcement official who now directs science policy for Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, a watchdog group.
Bennett said many scientists left as Trump’s administration rolled back regulations and undercut climate work, leaving agencies with less experience, a work backlog and unfinished research.
Employment data shows more than 670 science jobs lost at the EPA, 150 at the U.S. Geological Survey, which researches human-caused climate change and natural hazards, and 231 at the Fish and Wildlife Service.
At the USDA, more than one-third of staff members — almost 200 people — left the agency’s Economic Research Service and its National Institute of Food and Agriculture in Fiscal Year 2019, after the Trump administration moved their jobs from Washington, D.C., to Kansas City.
“The loss of experienced staff was deep,” said spokesman Matt Herrick, who provided figures showing even deeper losses at one point. “We lost too many of the nation’s best economists and agricultural scientists.”
Gone are specialists working on such things as crops, wetland loss, climate policy and soil conservation, said Laura Dodson, acting vice president of the union representing research service workers.
The findings on science job losses are based on payroll records released to the advocacy group Union of Concerned Scientists through a public records request and on USDA attrition data.
Not all agencies saw drops under Trump, and the drain of science jobs from USGS and EPA pre-dated him.