An Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) official quit her job in protest Tuesday because she felt it was her “civic duty to explain the impact” of Trump’s policies in the department. She will now volunteer for the Environmental Protection Network, a group of former EPA staffers determined to resist Trumps’ agenda.
Elizabeth “Betsy” Southerland, director of science and technology in EPA’s Office of Water, announced that she’ll be leaving the agency after 30 years. She says her departure is in protest of the Trump administration’s agenda. Southerland is the third vocal EPA employee to resign in protest, following President Donald Trump’s proposed budget and regulation cuts.
While Southerland has been with the department for three decades, it’s been noted she worked closely with the Obama administration during the former president’s tenure.
“I felt it was my civic duty to explain the impact of this administration’s policies on public health and safety,” Southerland disclosed to The Washington Post during an interview.
In a statement, released by liberal-leaning Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), Sutherland writes:
It may take a few years and even an environmental disaster, but I am confident that Congress and the courts will eventually restore all the environmental protections repealed by this administration because the majority of the American people recognize that this protection of public health and safety is right and it is just.
An EPA spokesman, responding to an inquiry, revealed that Southerland’s resignation comes conveniently at a time when it would be prudent to retire, as she’s now eligible to collect her government pension.
“It’s hard to believe that Elizabeth Southerland is retiring because of a budget proposal and not because she’s eligible for her government pension,” EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox said. “We wish Elizabeth Southerland the best in her retirement and the EPA will continue to re-focus on our core mission of protecting our air, land, and water.”
According to the Office of Personnel Management, retirement benefit amounts are based on an employee’s highest base salary over a three-year period. The average salary at the EPA, in 2015 (base salary + bonus) was $113,820.16.
Drawing her government pension, Southerland is free to start her volunteer duties at The Environmental Protection Network. The Network describes itself as “a newly formed group of former federal and state employees and other environmental professionals.” In March, they produced what they called a “detailed analysis of the Trump administration’s proposals for the FY2018 budget for the Environmental Protection Agency.” In a release, they concluded:
The Trump Budget Blueprint for EPA appears to be nothing less than a full throttle attack on the principle underlying all U.S. environmental laws.
On its Facebook page, the group declares: “In its first six months the Trump administration has suspended or placed under review a total of 47 Obama-era rules. The EPA is leading the charge, delaying and/or reviewing at least 14 rules, accounting for 30 percent of all cases across the government.”
While the network vows to fight such changes, many conservatives remain happy with the reviews.
On Tuesday, another Obama holdover from the Department of Homeland Security also quit over Trump.
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