Wheeler: EPA Positioned to Reopen Three More Regional Offices (2)

June 1, 2020, 11:46 PM; Updated: June 2, 2020, 2:10 PM

The EPA is nudging its regional offices in Boston, Dallas, and Denver closer to reopening, agency chief Andrew Wheeler said in an internal email on Monday.

The three Environmental Protection Agency offices will be closed for seven days to assure that any viruses there are rendered inactive, Wheeler said. Several smaller facilities, not identified in the email, will also be included.

While the seven-day closure starts June 1, the agency gave no precise date for reopening. Wheeler said the phased reopening will be “measured and deliberate.”

“The closure is the first step to return our employees safely to the office,” an EPA spokeswoman said. “We will evaluate the criteria once again at the end of the closure period to inform the decision on reopening the office.”

Employees will have maximum telecommuting flexibilities and won’t be forced to return to the office through Phase 2 of President Donald Trump’s three-step approach to reopening federal agencies and businesses, the spokeswoman said.

Data From CDC

Before starting the reopening, the EPA will conduct two reviews of health information regarding symptoms, tested cases, and local hospital capacity. The reviews will also take city, state, and county requirements into account, Wheeler said.

The agency is also using data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other expert data sources, which is being reviewed by EPA’s own scientific experts, the spokeswoman said.

The move comes on the heels of the EPA last week moving its regional offices in Atlanta, Seattle, and Lenexa, Kansas, into Phase 1 of the White House’s reopening plan.

The American Federation of Government Employees, which represents more than half of EPA employees, recently told Wheeler that no data exists to suggest it’s safe to reopen, and that the union hasn’t been invited to participate in the reopening talks.

In response, the EPA said it has held seven formal briefings with its unions to discuss the reopening plans, starting on March 10 and extending through May 22.

(Updates June 1 story with additional reporting.)

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; Chuck McCutcheon at cmccutcheon@bloombergenvironment.com

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