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EPA to reduce workforce with buyouts, early retirement plan

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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said on Wednesday it would reconsider a rule on emissions from oil and gas operations and delay its implementation, marking the Trump administration's latest effort to dismantle Obama-era environmental regulations. The EPA's job is not to protect Scott Pruitt's friends in the oil and gas industry-it's to protect the health and safety of Americans, based on science.

Pruitt toured the West Calumet Housing Complex, a public housing complex, alongside Gov. Eric Holcomb who approved a disaster declaration for the city just weeks after taking office.

His visit comes as fears persist the EPA is closing down its Chicago regional office, CBS 2's Jeremy Ross reports.

"EPA is continuing to follow through with President Trump's energy independence executive order", Pruitt said in a statement.

Environmentalists say USS Lead Superfund in East Chicago, Indiana, is the poster child of environmental injustice.

On Friday, Politico reported that federal budget cuts will likely hit the EPA hard, and the budget instructs the EPA to identify two regional offices for closure by June 15.

In a blog post, Meleah Geertsman, a senior attorney in the Natural Resources Defense Council's Midwest program, wrote that "Pruitt has a critical opportunity to make good on his confirmation statement - that EPA should have "acted faster" in Flint - by stepping in to ensure that residents throughout East Chicago have reliable access to drinking water that is not contaminated by lead".

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At a press conference, local officials praised Pruitt for visiting the site.

Pruitt left without answering questions about that. "And we air we breathe is contaminated", said Thomas Frank, a resident of the community of roughly 30,000 who lives near the Superfund site.

While Pruitt's visit was welcomed by officials in this small, industrial and Democratic-dominated city, he drew criticism from the union representing EPA workers.

Clean-up would continue in East Chicago, lawmakers said.

Residents of the housing complex in IN were joined by environmental activists as they protested nearby before Pruitt arrived.

Meanwhile, representatives from various community organizations made their way inside Carrie Gosch Elementary School - closed to students last summer amid fears of lead contamination - to take residents' concerns to a delegation of state and federal officials. Some held signs that read "East Chicago Demands Clean Water".

"It is one of the hardest decisions I had to make to tell people to leave their homes", said East Chicago Mayor Anthony Copeland. "This is not going to end in a day, a week or a month, but if we stay true to the course, I think you will see something horrific be righted".

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