Half of the Environmental Protection Agency’s entire workforce can retire with full benefits within the next five years, according to a review of documents The Daily Caller News Foundation obtained Wednesday.
Nearly 25 percent of the agency’s current workforce can retire today with full benefits, while another 25 percent can retire in the next five years with full benefits, according to the documents, which were part of a wider trove of material released to Reuters and TheDCNF.
The revelation comes as the EPA continues offering buyout packages to employees.
Nearly 362 EPA employees accepted a voluntary buyout, or a VERA, earlier this month, while another 12 employees retired in August, the documents show. Another 33 employees are expected to retire at the end of September, and an additional 45 employees are considering buyout offers.
EPA employment levels could tumble to 14,428, which would be lower than the 14,440-level found during the latter half of the Ronald Reagan presidency. The agency had 15,561 employees during former President Barack Obama’s final term in office, all of whom earned an average salary of $113,820. The average American income is about $50,000.
The buyouts are helping the Trump administration reduce the size of government, EPA chief Scott Pruitt said in a statement Wednesday.
“We’re giving long-serving, hard-working employees the opportunity to retire early,” said Pruitt, who sued the agency nearly a dozen times during his time as Oklahoma’s attorney general. “We’re proud to report that we’re reducing the size of government … staying true to our core mission of protecting the environment and American jobs.”
Pruitt is responsible for carrying out President Donald Trump’s mission of rolling back significant portions of his Democratic predecessor’s climate agenda. He was also one of the officials who helped convince the president to leave the Paris climate agreement, which obligated the U.S. cut greenhouse gas emissions 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025.
The document comes shortly after reports from July showed the EPA planned to buy out 1,227 positions, 655 of which will be from agency headquarters in Washington, D.C. EPA indicated a willingness to offer employees up to $25,000 in cash in exchange for them leaving, which is standard practice for federal employees hoping to retire early.
The largest number of buyouts, 183, will come from the Office of Research and Development. EPA will also offer buyouts to 98 employees at the Office of Administration and Resource Management, and make the same offer to 94 workers at the Office of Land and Emergency Management.
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