Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

29 Regional EPA Employees Leave amid National Wave of Buyouts

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

29 Regional EPA Employees Leave amid National Wave of Buyouts

Article excerpt

Staffing at the regional headquarters of the Environmental Protection Agency was cut by 29 positions this month, amid a nationwide round of early retirement buyouts aimed at shrinking an agency fixed in the political crosshairs of President Donald Trump's administration.

The departures, which were finalized on Sept. 2, represent more than a 5 percent reduction of the workforce in EPA Region 7, which encompasses Missouri, Iowa, Kansas and Nebraska. The regional office's responsibilities include overseeing the cleanup of radioactive waste in West Lake Landfill in north St. Louis County, managed under the EPA's Superfund program.

Regional officials were largely mum on what possible ripple effects could be felt from the buyouts, explaining last week that the next step is to redistribute the workloads that had been shouldered by those accepting the buyouts. The office, based in Lenexa, Kan., now employs 482 people.

Officials said workers eligible for the buyouts were already close to retirement, and added that certain positions such as on-scene coordinators, contracting officers and IT security personnel were not eligible.

Regional officials said they did not believe that the agency's operations at West Lake would be directly affected.

Trump, who has pledged to shrink the size of the EPA, has proposed a 31 percent cut to the agency's budget for the coming year the largest reduction to any federal agency.

In June, the EPA unveiled a buyout program that would contribute to those cuts. The EPA employs about 15,000 people and is on course to fall to its lowest level since Ronald Reagan was president, according to an agency official.

After buyouts and retirements, that number could drop to 14,428 by October, the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said in an email.

That would be below the fiscal 1988 level, when EPA staffing was 14,440, the official noted. An additional 2,998 employees, or just over 20 percent of the total, are eligible to retire now, the official said. …

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