The leader of the Environmental Protection Agency’s environmental justice program has resigned.
Mustafa Ali resigned Thursday, voicing concerns that President Donald Trump might deeply slash or eliminate funding for his office.
Reports have circulated that the EPA is going to face a hefty budget decrease. Some reports have suggested the environmental justice office, which addresses the impact of environmental issues on low-income and minority communities, could lose most or all of its funding.
“I never saw in the past a concerted effort to roll back the positive steps that many, many people have worked on though all the previous administrations. … I can’t be a part of anything that would hurt those [disadvantaged] communities. I just couldn’t sign off on those types of things,” said Ali, who has held his post since 1992.
“I hadn’t seen any positive movement in relationship to vulnerable communities … I hadn’t seen yet any engagement with communities with environmental justice concerns,” he added.
Ali has already moved on and is now working as a senior vice president at the Hip Hop Caucus, a civil and human rights group using hip-hop music to create political engagement.
In a memo Ali wrote for his resignation, he voiced his doubts about the Trump team now running the EPA.
“I wonder if our new leadership has had the opportunity to converse with those who need our help the most,” Ali wrote in his memo. “I strongly encourage you and your team to continue promoting agency efforts to validate these community’s concerns, and value their lives.”
Projects funded by the environmental justice office have included a project in Boston to help teens by “enhancing urban greenways, tending gardens, and planting native vegetation trails.” One project is in Worcester, Mass., to increase community gardens and one in West Harlem to teach teenagers how to install rainwater harvesting systems.
Ali had made his views on climate change clear in a blog he began on the EPA’s website.
“Climate change is real, its impacts are enormous, and we are already seeing these effects across the planet today. And while we are deeply engaged in a discourse about the extent of the disruptions and devastation that a changing and destabilized climate causes, we don’t talk nearly enough about how those burdens will be shared in our country,” he wrote.
When asked about environmental justice during his confirmation hearing, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said he supported the concept.
“I am familiar with the concept of environmental justice,” Pruitt said. “As I testified, the administrator plays an important role regarding environmental justice. I agree that it is important that all Americans be treated equally under the law, including the environmental laws.”