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Re-envisioning EPA and its work in the post-Trump era: perspectives from EPA employees

Abstract

The Trump administration has severely curtailed the work of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The EPA has rolled back environmental protections, lost ground on addressing climate change and environmental justice, and shed large numbers of experienced staff. All of this has accelerated a longer-term decline in EPA resources, expertise, and authority. Here, we present perspectives of EPA employees and retirees on reconfiguring and strengthening the agency to address current and future environmental health problems, based on qualitative data obtained through 100 semi-structured interviews with 76 current and former EPA employees. Interviewees emphasized a number of internal and external issues, including a hyper-partisan context in which the agency operates, lack of public understanding of the extent of domestic and global environmental problems, budget shortfalls, staffing and leadership challenges, reduced scientific capacity and use of science in decision-making, insufficient attention to environmental justice, and lagging technology. We argue that reforms cannot only be expert-driven but must also come from the public, incorporating community driven solutions and focusing on remedying environmental injustice.

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Correspondence to Marianne Sullivan.

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Sullivan, M., Sellers, C., Fredrickson, L. et al. Re-envisioning EPA and its work in the post-Trump era: perspectives from EPA employees. J Public Health Pol 42, 281–297 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1057/s41271-021-00276-z

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Keywords

  • Environmental Protection Agency
  • Environmental regulation
  • Environmental health policy
  • Environmental justice