A longtime EPA employee and climate scientist, newly retired after 25 years, is voicing his concerns about the agency’s future under the Trump administration.
In a letter sent to EPA Chief Scott Pruitt on Friday Cox wrote, “I and many staff firmly believe the policies this administration is advancing are contrary to what the majority of the American people, who pay our salaries, want EPA to accomplish.”
Cox said he wrote the letter because of what he describes as "low morale" among career EPA staff, writing: “The message we are hearing is that the Administration is working to dismantle EPA and its staff as quickly as possible.”
Cox, who has worked under six administrations, across both parties, wrote "this is the first time I remember staff openly dismissing and mocking the environmental policies."
The letter goes on to highlight several concerns from “denying fundamental climate science,” to “indefensible budget cuts," referencing the the President’s initial budget blue-print that called for a 30 percent reduction to the EPA.
“The message it sent to the EPA staff by the budget is pretty clear; they don’t value us,” said Cox in an interview Monday.
Cox also expressed concern about President Trump's new energy independence executive order to roll back Obama era regulations, that the administration called "job-killing."
While the move was cheered by coal miners and energy executives, Cox argues it gives coal miners false hope.
“We need to do something, but saying that their jobs are coming back, I'm not an economist, but all you have to look at is the decline in coal employment over the years. It’s steady, it’s long before President Obama came into office,” said Cox.
He said factors include automation and the rise of natural gas. Cox believes instead of fossil fuels, money should be spent on developing renewable energy, such as solar and wind.
“It’s an opportunity for us the United States of America to look forward, not backwards. What I say, let’s move forward with the future, the clean energy technology,” said Cox.
“If we abdicate our international leadership on (climate change), other countries, I don’t know what they’ll do, but they could say, 'Gosh, the big dog is not here,’” said Cox. “I’m not sure what will happen.”
Cox, who had planned to retire before last year's election, says he hopes that administrator Pruitt "steps back and listens" to the concerns of career EPA staff.
He's also extending an open invite to visit Region 10, which extends from the Pacific Northwest to Alaska.
"I would like administrator Pruitt to come out here," said Cox. "I would like him to go to Alaska, go to the villages; talk to the people who are seeing the changes right now. This isn’t in the future. This isn’t using some model; this is happening right now."
KING 5 has reached out to the EPA for comment, but has not yet heard back.
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