Staff members of the Environmental Protection Agency have been instructed to freeze all grants in the agency’s extensive funding program, including, but not limited to, funds for environmental research, education, industrial site redevelopment, and air quality monitoring. Furthermore, staff have also received orders not to talk about the issue with anyone outside the agency, including the public and the press.
This news broke when an anonymous EPA staff member informed the congressional office about the development earlier this week, and it is unknown as to whether the freeze will be temporary or not. The Huffington Post published a message that was reportedly given to EPA staff on January 23, outlining tight controls on external communication:
"I just returned from a briefing for Communication Directors where the following information was provided. These restrictions are effective immediately and will remain in place until further direction is received from the new Administration’s Beach Team. Please review this material and share with all appropriate individuals in your organization. If anyone on your staff receives a press inquiry of any kind, it must be referred to me so "I can coordinate with the appropriate individuals in OPA."
"No press releases will be going out to external audiences."
"No social media will be going out. A Digital Strategist will be coming on board to oversee social media. Existing, individually controlled, social media accounts may become more centrally controlled."
"No blog messages."
"The Beach Team will review the list of upcoming webinars and decide which ones will go forward."
"Please send me a list of any external speaking engagements that are currently scheduled among any of your staff from today through February.
"Incoming media requests will be carefully screened."
"No new content can be placed on any website. Only do clean up where essential."
"List servers will be reviewed. Only send out critical messages, as messages can be shared broadly and end up in the press.
"I will provide updates to this information as soon as I receive it."
Scott Pruitt, Trump’s nominee for administrator of the EPA, is still awaiting confirmation from the Senate for his new position. Pruitt is notorious for challenging EPA regulations on pollution coming from power plants, ground-level ozone production and the Clean Water Rule. Pruitt also insists that the question of climate change remains unsettled, despite the mountain of evidence proving that the phenomenon is real.
Fortunately, the Trump administration has delayed their plans to purge the EPA’s website of material regarding climate change, pending a review of the website’s content, to determine what they can legally remove, according to another anonymous EPA employee.