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Why the EPA's Environmental Justice chief quit his job: “You have to stand on principle”

One longtime staffer saw the EPA's budget cuts coming and resigned last week, in protest.

President Trump proposed a 31 percent cut to the Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday which, if approved by Congress, would mean thousands of people leaving the agency. But one longtime staffer saw the news coming and resigned last week, in protest.

Mustafa Ali, the head of the EPA’s environmental justice program, decided to leave the agency he’d worked at for close to 25 years. Despite his long tenure there, Ali says he didn’t get a chance to speak with either the Trump transition team or the EPA’s new administrator, Scott Pruitt, in the weeks before his departure.

“When there’s any transition, there’s always a lack, maybe, of information, if you will.” he said during an interview on Wednesday. “But there was a huge amount of concern. You know, folks had seen that the record of administrator Pruitt was not one of working with vulnerable communities. And folks were wondering what would be the priorities.”

That might explain why Ali’s resignation letter to Scott Pruitt was nearly three pages; he needed to explain that the regulatory rollbacks and proposed cuts to the EPA’s budget would hurt the communities he’d spent years protecting.

“What I saw was that there were actions that were happening that I felt were detrimental to communities,” Ali said, sitting in the Hip Hop Caucus’ brand new Washington, D.C. office. Since leaving the EPA, he’s taken on the job of Senior Vice President of Climate, Environmental Justice & Community Revitalization at the nonprofit organization, which uses hip-hop music and culture to promote political activism among youth and young adults.

“You can’t make those [budget] cuts and expect that people are going to be in a better place,” he added.