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EPA employees rally in opposition to Trump's choice to lead agency

In this March 10, 2016 photo, Scott Pruitt, Oklahoma Attorney General, gestures as he speaks during an interview in Oklahoma City, Okla. (Photo by Sue Ogrocki/AP)
In this March 10, 2016 photo, Scott Pruitt, Oklahoma Attorney General, gestures as he speaks during an interview in Oklahoma City, Okla.
We've seen all kinds of progressive-minded protests in recent weeks, but this gathering in Chicago was a little different than most.

Hundreds of current and former employees of the Environmental Protection Agency are speaking out against President Donald Trump's pick to head the department.About 300 people, including scores of EPA employees, rallied Monday across the street from the agency's regional headquarters in downtown Chicago to oppose Scott Pruitt's nomination.... At the rally in Chicago, EPA employees and their supporters waved signs that read "Stop Pruitt" and "Save EPA."

As the Associated Press' report noted, yesterday's demonstration came against a backdrop of nearly 450 former EPA officials who co-signed a letter of opposition to Pruitt, explaining that the Oklahoma Republicans' record "raises serious questions about whose interests he has served to date and whether he agrees with the longstanding tenets of U.S. environmental law."But it's the fact that current EPA employees participated in a public event -- on their lunch break -- against Donald Trump's nominee that stood out for me. These federal officials, well aware of the new Republican president's hostility towards dissent, attended a rally in which they effectively said, "Please don't make us work for that guy."That took some chutzpah. In fact, I'm not sure if that's happened before, at least in modern history. Some even went on the record:

"I think Pruitt will shackle us," said Sherry Estes, an EPA enforcement attorney. She said employee morale within the agency has plummeted since the election of Trump, who campaigned on pledges to eliminate the agency and roll back environmental protections."It's horrible. People are scared. People are depressed. People who were recently hired and have babies or just bought a house are scared they'll be laid off," said Estes, who said she was unafraid to speak out because she is close to retirement.

The concerns are grounded in fact. As we recently discussed, Pruitt has spent much of his career fighting against the EPA and combating its core missions. He’s practically a caricature of what a ridiculous GOP choice for the agency looks like.Senate Republicans, however, are in the majority, and by all appearances, they're unmoved by the pushback. Democrats delayed the vote on Pruitt in committee, but their victory was temporary, and the Oklahoma state attorney general, known for his hand-in-glove relationship with the oil and gas industries, is likely to be confirmed this week.