Want to work for the EPA? The agency is preparing for a substantial hiring push in 2024
The agency is leaning on a twin set of climate-related bills to restore its workforce.
The Environmental Protection Agency is looking to bring on 1,000 new employees and interns this year as it attempts to continue growing its rolls after years of staffing reductions.
The agency launched a new campaign—”BeEPA”—and is holding a series of outreach events throughout the country this week to raise awareness of the job postings. EPA has openings at its Washington headquarters and each of its 10 regional offices, officials said, and the roles include scientists, engineers, grant managers, attorneys and IT professionals.
Fiscal 2024 funding remains uncertain as the agency, like all of government, is still operating under a continuing resolution and the extent to which EPA can grow its workforce remains an open question. EPA will determine more precise hiring targets once Congress makes its final appropriations, Angela Hackel, an agency spokesperson said, but will lean on the billions of dollars it received through the recent bipartisan infrastructure law and the Democrats signature climate, tax and health care bill known as the Inflation Reduction Act to supplement that funding.
“Our hope is that we will continue to grow the agency through BIL and IRA funding, as well as our annual appropriations,” Hackel said.
EPA saw its budget grow by 6% in fiscal 2023 and 3% growth in fiscal 2022, though top-line spending across government is frozen in fiscal 2024. EPA’s workforce has grown by about 7%, or 1,100 employees, since President Biden took office, with most of that growth occurring in fiscal 2023.
On a call with students from colleges across the country this week, EPA Administrator Michael Regan said his agency saw more new hires last year than in any of the previous five. He vowed to double the number of interns it hires this year and said the new BeEPA campaign would appeal to all those passionate about the climate and environment.
“There’s so much work ahead of us to achieve this administration’s ambitious goals,” Regan said.
The Biden administration has repeatedly beaten the drum for more staffing at EPA. In his fiscal 2024 budget, President Biden asked for a 19% spike in EPA funding, which marked the largest proposed increase for any federal agency in his blueprint. He said that cash infusion was necessary to add a whopping 2,400 employees to offset staffing reductions under the previous administration that “continue to undermine the agency’s ability to carry out its mission.”
As the Biden administration has looked to hire thousands of employees at various agencies to carry out the $1 trillion infrastructure law, EPA and other agencies have received special hiring authorities from the Office of Personnel Management to fill certain positions. As of October, the administration said it had filled 75% of the jobs earmarked for infrastructure implementation.
EPA is still dealing with shortfalls within its workforce. The agency’s inspector general recently highlighted staffing concerns as a key deficiency in the agency’s grants administration and oversight. Its grant workforce had seen “high turnover and heavy workload” and was “already overworked," the watchdog said.
Marie Owens Powell, president of the American Federation of Government Employees council that represents 7,500 EPA workers, praised the hiring initiative and said it would help alleviate strains placed on the workforce. Even as the Biden administration has stopped the bleeding from the “mass exodus” that occurred at EPA under President Trump, she said, the agency is still dealing with turnover and longstanding vacancies.
“We’re still feeling that pressure,” Powell said. “Hopefully the 1,000 hires is helpful in alleviating some of those stressors.”
She called the goal “ambitious” but “achievable,” adding the agency must offer competitive salaries and flexible telework policies to recruit top talent.
EPA, which held a nationwide webinar on Wednesday to "demystify the federal hiring process," has vowed to recruit young applicants from diverse backgrounds. The "unprecedented resources and opportunities" from the pair of laws that injected EPA with money will help advance environmental justice, climate action and sustainable infrastructure, the agency said.