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'We Really Need To Take Initiative': Boston EPA Workers March To Protest Trump's Budget Cuts03:00
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A group of Environmental Protection Agency workers in Boston and their supporters gathered at Boston Common Wednesday before heading toward the State House to protest President Trump's budget proposal. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
A group of Environmental Protection Agency workers in Boston and their supporters gathered at Boston Common Wednesday before heading toward the State House to protest President Trump's budget proposal. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
This article is more than 2 years old.

Demonstrators marched through the streets of downtown Boston Wednesday in opposition to President Trump's proposed budget cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency. What made this particular protest out of the ordinary was that many of the protesters were EPA employees.

The rag-tag rally stepped off at noon from Post Office Square, right in front of the EPA's regional office. The timing was purposeful. EPA employees were on their lunch hour and were free to express themselves while not on the agency's clock.

Among the crowd was Steve Calder, an EPA employee and the president of AFGE Local 3428, which represents 600 EPA staffers.

Calder said the president's proposed 31 percent budget cut to the EPA will damage the agency and the environment.

"We want to be able to make sure that we protect human health and the environment," Calder said. "And 31 percent will basically cripple EPA in many ways."

For example, Calder said the cuts will likely force many of his fellow employees to take early retirements.

"And then we'll be losing a lot of the institutional knowledge associated with people who have worked here for years," Calder said, "and it will take us a long time to recover from the knowledge that's going to walk out the door."

(Jesse Costa/WBUR)
(Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Robin Johnson was another EPA employee who took part in Wednesday's protest.

"We're out here because of the extreme cuts that the Trump administration is trying to impose on the EPA and other environmental agencies," she said.

Johnson said the proposed cuts will result in dirtier air and water "because a lot of times [the] EPA is the only reason why waters get cleaned up, [it's] because of pressure from the EPA. The states are underfunded and cannot do the job on their own, as we all saw in Flint."

Johnson was referring to water contamination in Flint, Michigan. The EPA recently awarded $100 million toward upgrading that city's drinking water infrastructure.

Many of the EPA employees marching Wednesday are not used to taking a public stance on issues. Abigail Swaine works on fuel efficient freight movements and said EPA workers are usually a shy bunch.

"We're not real rabble-rousers," Swaine said. "We just feel like this is a watershed moment where we really need to take initiative."

The Trump administration defends the proposed cuts to the EPA, saying the budget returns focus to the agency's core statutory mission and eliminates redundancies and inefficiencies.

In a written statement, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said "the president's budget respects the American taxpayer." Pruit added that the "budget supports EPA's highest priorities with federal funding for priority work in infrastructure, air and water quality, and ensuring the safety of chemicals in the marketplace."

This segment aired on May 24, 2017.

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Steve Brown is a veteran broadcast journalist who serves as WBUR's senior State House reporter.

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