Over the past year, more than 700 EPA employees have quit their jobs or taken retirement buyouts. According to Steve Hopkins, who worked at the EPA for 15 years, that’s unprecedented.
Betsy Southerland is one of the EPA employees who left the agency last year. She laments the way Administrator Scott Pruitt and political appointees cut career EPA employees out of major policy decisions.
Environmental regulations are just part of what the EPA does to help communities, says Mustafa Santiago Ali, who quit his job at the agency in March after serving as the head of the EPA’s environmental justice program. Agency employees also build trust with marginalized communities who need help dealing with environmental contamination. “That’s why we need to have a strong EPA. Because when we don’t, we weaken our country,” Ali told VICE News. “We have to address these public health issues and these environmental issues, if we truly want to have our country to be all that it’s supposed to be.”
To find just how the EPA has been doing in Trump and Pruitt’s first year, VICE News gathered around a campfire with four employees who left the agency in 2017, and one current union representative. The result was a frank discussion between former federal employees who worked at the agency for decades — fueled by a marshmallow roast.
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