EPA’s environmental justice head resigns

EPA’s environmental justice head resigns

The head of the Environmental Protection Agency program aimed at protecting minority populations from pollution has resigned.

Mustafa Ali, who has worked at the EPA for 24 years, is leaving as the Trump administration is proposing to completely defund environmental justice efforts at the EPA.

Ali submitted a resignation letter Wednesday to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt in which he implored the agency's new leader to take seriously the concerns of minority communities, which often bear the brunt of air and water pollution and live in areas near major industrial centers.

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He told InsideClimate News, which first reported on the letter, that he does not see in the Trump administration “any indication that they are focused or interested in helping those vulnerable communities. My values and priorities seem to be different than our current leadership and because of that I feel that it's best if I take my talents elsewhere.”

Ali urged Pruitt in his letter to reconsider many of the proposed cuts that Trump is eyeing to shave about a quarter off the EPA’s budget, including collaborative problem-solving grants and a program for small environmental justice grants.

“We’ve had both [Republican and Democratic administrations] over time and none of them tried to do anything to destroy what the previous administration had done,” Ali told InsideClimate. “Folks are just hoping that this one will wake up and see value in continuing this important work.”

In answers to written questions following his confirmation hearing in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Pruitt said he is “familiar” with environmental justice.

“The administrator plays an important role regarding environmental justice,” he wrote. “I agree that it is important that all Americans be treated equally under the law, including the environmental laws.”