Pennsylvania

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EPA Region 3 union rep says Trump’s proposed cuts would hurt public health

Gary Morton, president of the American Federation of Government Employees Local which represents EPA workers, joins protesters outside the agency's Center City offices.

Emma Lee / WHYY

Gary Morton, president of the American Federation of Government Employees Local which represents EPA workers, joins protesters outside the agency's Center City offices.

The union representing employees with the Environmental Protection Agency says President Trump’s proposed cuts to the agency would risk public health. The administration is proposing to slash the EPA’s budget by 31 percent. That would include eliminating more than 3,000 jobs at the agency.

Gary Morton is president of AFGE local 3631, which represents EPA employees working on the ground in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, West Virginia and D.C. Morton says morale took a hit when staff members heard about the proposed cuts.

“It was devastating, it was extremely devastating to morale,” Morton said, speaking outside of EPA Region 3 headquarters in downtown Philadelphia on Tuesday. “The proposals as they are will not allow us to protect human health and the environment.”

Morton joined a small protest outside of EPA Region 3 headquarters. He says if the cuts go through, states including Pennsylvania and Delaware will feel the impacts directly, not only because of less money available for local environmental protection, but also, he says, because states often hand over politically sensitive investigations to the EPA.

“Sometimes there’s political connections that get in the way of enforcing the regulations. As union president I’ve seen cases where the state’s have asked the EPA to handle the toughest cases.”

Trump’s EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt says he wants to turn the enforcement of environmental rules over to the states. EPA officials did not respond to a request for comment.

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