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Retiring EPA Official Uses FY18 Budget as Excuse for Departure

Elizabeth Southerland is the latest senior EPA official who was up for retirement and used the occasion to blast President Trump and Administrator Pruitt…

AG Scott Pruitt

A senior official at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) claimed in a letter Tuesday that she’s resigning from the agency because of President Trump’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2018 (FY18), among other reasons.

Here’s an excerpt from the memo she sent her colleagues:

Under the new federalism, however, the President’s FY18 budget proposes cuts to state and tribal funding as draconian as the cuts to EPA, while at the same time reassigning a number of EPA responsibilities to the states and tribes. If they want to maintain their current level of monitoring, permitting, 2 inspections, and enforcement, states will have to increase taxes and establish new user fees. Even if they are able to do this over time, the proposed FY18 budget cuts to state, tribal and federal environmental programs would result in thousands of jobs lost in the short term, in EPA, state and tribal governments, and the private environmental consulting firms which support those governmental agencies.

Southerland worked for EPA for more than 30 years and earned a taxpayer-funded paycheck nearly six times that of the average American, $249,000, in 2016.

Despite her healthy compensation, Southerland publicly complained about her retirement by criticizing proposed cuts to EPA under the president’s proposed budget. Southerland was apparently not paid to know that it’s actually the Congress that has the so-called “power of the purse” when it comes to the federal budget. Forbes explains:

First, no matter who has been in the White House in recent years the president’s budget has become increasingly irrelevant to what, if anything, gets done. This is not Obama-dependent: it has been happening over the past few decades.

In 2015, for example, President Obama’s budget came to the floor for a vote. The Senate rejected it by a 98-1 vote.

Given the history of presidential budgets failing, Southerland’s excuse for “resigning” does not pass the smell test. Rather, just like her EPA colleague Mike Cox, Southerland likely wanted to retire “with a bang,” and that motivated her to publish a letter critical of Trump and Pruitt.