Employees of the regional EPA office in Boston and environmental activists protested today against President Trump’s proposed cuts to the agency — putting aside their usual reluctance to step into politics.

More than 50 EPA workers and supporters marched from their regional headquarters in Post Office Square to voice anger about Trump’s funding cuts.

"We're marching to the State House and around to the Common, because the current cuts that the president has in his current budget are draconian, and it will prevent EPA from doing its job," said Anne Rodney, who administers grants to states, and has worked at the EPA for 30 years.

The White House budget would cut EPA spending by 31 percent – although Congress still has to weigh in. 

EPA workers and supporters march through Downtown Crossing.
Tomo Singh Jr.

"Certainly with every administration there are changes in our priorities, but nothing like this where the whole agency is under attack. I’ve never seen anything like it," said Kymberlee Keckler, who works in the superfund program has been with the agency for over three decades.

Keckler says she thinks the public is on their side. But, "I wish there would be more public involvement and people speaking out in praise of some of the things we want to keep," she said.

Union president Steve Calder speaks to EPA protesters.
Tomo Singh Jr.

Tom Olivier, an EPA attorney whose work focuses on the Clean Air Act, rejects the criticism leveled at the agency by President Trump.

"It's a myth that cleaning up the environment and being in compliance is bad for business, bad for America, bad for employees bad for anybody," he said. "In the work that we do we try to find successful resolutions that everyone can live with and the companies can abide by and prosper by, and that's been my experience for 28 years."

Olivier said he doesn’t believe Trump’s claim that a lot of the environmental regulations can and should be handled by states.

"With the kind of budget cuts that are being proposed, we won’t be able to do state oversight," he said. "And our states in new England have been cutting their personnel and their staff enormously over the past few years, so the states are not in the position to take over what we're doing."

Protesters at Park Street on Wednesday.
Tomo Singh Jr.

For Sandra Petrakis, the administration’s actions have already gotten in the way of her work at the EPA. She finished grad school in August, and at the beginning of this year had a tentative offer to work for the EPA.

"And in January, on day one of Trump's presidency, he signed the executive order instating the hiring freeze," she said. She’d been waiting to see if the job might still materialize, and got an email just last week. "That was saying the tentative offers have been rescinded," she said. She’s still looking for a job.  

The workers were joined on their march by environmental advocates from groups like the Sierra Club, as well as faith leaders from several religions. One of them was Unitarian Universalist minister Fred Small from the Arlington Street Church in Boston, who led the crowd in a spiritual that called out the EPA’s new administrator, who frequently sued the agency as Oklahoma Attorney General.

"Ain't going to let Scott Pruitt turn me around," he sang.

Unitarian Universalist minister Fred Small from the Arlington Street Church in Boston.
Tomo Singh Jr.

Abby Swaine works for an EPA program that incentivizes shipping and transportation companies to save fuel and reduce greenhouse gases. She said marching, carrying signs and shouting definitely puts her and her colleagues out of their comfort zone. But she said it’s important for the public to see this.

"You know, they've got to see that normal, sort of nerdy people go out and put their wallflower tendencies aside to do what needs to be done," she said. "And everyone should take a little responsibility to speak up." 

EPA employee Abby Swaine.
Tomo Singh Jr.

For these workers, it meant a more active lunch hour than usual.

“Thank you everyone,” union president Steve Calder called out as they reached the EPA regional office again. And with that, they handed off their signs, and headed back inside to get back to work.