EPA employees feeling the pressure

Some federal agencies are under too much political pressure.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has come under fire recently for its denial of California’s request to more stringently regulate auto emissions. The issue at hand is no longer a matter of environmental regulation; it’s a fight of political might. That type of politicizing is not unexpected from governmental agencies whose leaders are appointed by the president. It’s disconcerting to think that the political games might stretch deeper than we think. A survey of EPA scientists showed that even employees who are far removed from the top agency positions felt political pressure that impacted the way they perform their jobs.

Of 1,600 respondents, about 900 reported feeling political interference in their work. These numbers are of great concern. The scientists who were surveyed aren’t at the top of the organization; they are the backbone of the agency. Behind all the high-profile fighting about California’s request, the EPA does essential work at state and local levels monitoring and assessing the environment. These employees should be free to do their work without fear of retribution based on politics. The federal agencies need to be acting in the best interest of all citizens, not the political party in power. To hear that partisan pressure reaches far down the chain of command, one can’t help but doubt the objectivity of all governmental agencies.

The current administration is by no means the only perpetrator. Both political parties exert their influence over the numerous federal agencies, and it’s expected to some extent. There must be, however, a way to insulate basic agency function from the whims of the election cycle. The current depth of political influence is far too deep.

Hopefully these revelations can lead to remedies. We need to be able to trust the services offered by our federal agencies; these are too important to fall into the arena of political games.