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EPA Union Asks Wheeler to Halt Regional Office Reopening Plans

June 10, 2020, 7:35 PM

The EPA’s biggest union called on the agency to immediately stop its efforts to open some of its regional offices, saying not enough is known about coronavirus-imposed health risks.

The American Federation of Government Employees Council 238 asked Environmental Protection Agency leaders to release data showing it’s safe for staff to return to the office.

“Taking one step forward, two steps back, is playing a callous game with people’s lives—it simply isn’t prudent to rush to reopen offices when the stakes are so high,” wrote Gary Morton, president of AFGE Local 238, in a June 8 letter to EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler that was released to the public on Wednesday.

  • The agency said June 3 that it could bring its staff back to some offices as soon as early July if the reopening process goes smoothly.
  • An EPA spokeswoman said the agency’s plan for an eventual phased return to agency offices “will take a measured and deliberate approach that ensures our employees’ health and safety.” The agency is using data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which the EPA’s scientific experts is reviewing, she said.
  • The EPA recently walked back the reopenings of its Boston and Dallas offices after virus statistics in those cities started trending upward.
  • AFGE’s letter also said that not enough is known about the effects on the spread of the virus from recent large protests over the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police.

To contact the reporter on this story: Stephen Lee in Washington at stephenlee@bloombergindustry.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Gregory Henderson at ghenderson@bloombergindustry.com; Renee Schoof at rschoof@bloombergindustry.com

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