Trump Administration Imposes Freeze On EPA Grants...

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Trump Administration Imposes Freeze On EPA Grants...

Postby Wilberforce » Tue Jan 24, 2017 10:38 pm


Trump Administration Imposes Freeze On EPA Grants and Contracts


The Trump administration has imposed a freeze on grants and contracts by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

by Andrew Revkin and Jesse Eisinger
ProPublica, Jan. 23, 2017, 9 p.m.

The Trump administration has imposed a freeze on grants and contracts by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, a move that could affect a significant part of the agency’s budget allocations and even threaten to disrupt core operations ranging from toxic cleanups to water quality testing, according to records and interviews.

In one email exchange obtained by ProPublica on Monday, an EPA contracting officer concluded a note to a storm water management employee this way:

“Right now we are in a holding pattern. The new EPA administration has asked that all contract and grant awards be temporarily suspended, effective immediately. Until we receive further clarification, this includes task orders and work assignments.”

Asked about any possible freeze and its implications, EPA officials did not provide an answer.

One EPA employee aware of the freeze said he had never seen anything like it in nearly a decade with the agency. Hiring freezes happened, he said, but freezes on grants and contracts seemed extraordinary. The employee said the freeze appeared to be nationwide, and as of Monday night it was not clear for how long it would be in place.

The substance of the email exchange was confirmed by one senior EPA employee with over 20 years at the agency. An EPA lawyer also said that earlier communications had described such a freeze.

Monday night, Myron Ebell, who ran the EPA transition for the incoming administration, confirmed the basics of the freeze, but said the actions were not unprecedented.

“They’re trying to freeze things to make sure nothing happens they don’t want to have happen, so any regulations going forward, contracts, grants, hires, they want to make sure to look at them first,” said Ebell, who returned over the weekend to his position directing energy and global warming policy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a free-market, industry-aligned group that has long fought the EPA’s growth and influence.

“This may be a little wider than some previous administrations, but it’s very similar to what others have done,” he said.

President Trump has nominated Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to head the EPA. Pruitt has deep ties to the fossil fuel industry, and formed an alliance between the industry and other attorneys general to fight former President Baracks Obama’s climate proposals. He is seen as a hero among conservatives who believe the EPA oversteps its federal authority.

Pruitt faced tough questioning and even outright skepticism during his initial confirmation hearing last week. The Washington Examiner published a statement Monday by Tom Carper, the Delaware Democrat and ranking member on the Environment and Public Works Committee, saying, "Following the committee hearing on Scott Pruitt's nomination to head the EPA, serious questions remain about the nominee's record and vision for the agency he seeks to lead."
Help Us Track Winds of Change as Trump Confronts Climate Issues

If you see something, say something. ProPublica is eager to get tips on shifts in available government information related to climate change. Read the story.

Much about any freeze at the EPA remains unclear, including whether it affects only new grants and contracts, or may also affect the roughly $6.4 billion worth of federal contracts the EPA already has in place. EPA press offices across the country did not immediately respond to calls and emails requesting comment.

The EPA routinely contracts out services ranging from hazardous waste handling to drinking water quality testing. More than 600 active contracts with businesses ranging from small minority-owned consulting companies to institutions as big as Colorado State University can be explored here.

The environmental agency’s grants are used to support private, state and municipal level environmental testing, remediation and innovation projects. Together those programs can total more in spending than an entire year’s budget for the agency. The EPA awarded roughly $1.4 billion worth of contracts and $9.6 billion in grants in 2013, the latest year for which data was available, according to the government spending website InsideGov.com. The agency’s total budget in 2016 was $8.6 billion.

A freeze on payments would appear consistent with other actions taken on Monday, including President Trump signing an executive order instituting a hiring freeze for new federal workers — a centerpiece of the pledge he made in his “Contract with the American Voter” during the presidential campaign.

If anyone has more information on recent events at the EPA, please contact us.

Abrahm Lustgarten contributed reporting to this story.

Help Us Investigate the EPA: If you have experience with or information about the spending freeze or other recent events at the EPA, contact us: abrahm.lustgarten@propublica.org or andy.revkin@propublica.org.

source
https://www.propublica.org/article/trum ... -contracts
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USDA Scientists Have Been Put On Lockdown Under Trump

“Starting immediately and until further notice” the department’s main research division “will not release any public-facing documents,” according to an internal memo.
Originally posted on Jan. 24, 2017, at 5:25 a.m. Updated on Jan. 24, 2017, at 2:00 p.m.
Dino Grandoni
BuzzFeed News Reporter

The US Department of Agriculture has banned scientists and other employees in its main research division from publicly sharing everything from the summaries of scientific papers to USDA-branded tweets as it starts to adjust to life under the Trump administration, BuzzFeed News has learned.

According to an email sent Monday morning and obtained by BuzzFeed News, the department told staff — including some 2,000 scientists — at the agency’s main in-house research arm, the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), to stop communicating with the public about taxpayer-funded work.

“Starting immediately and until further notice, ARS will not release any public-facing documents,” Sharon Drumm, chief of staff for ARS, wrote in a department-wide email shared with BuzzFeed News.

“This includes, but is not limited to, news releases, photos, fact sheets, news feeds, and social media content,” she added.

Indeed, the last tweet from ARS’s official account was sent the day before Trump’s inauguration on Jan. 20.

Join us 4 Farm Science Day @USDA_ARS’ Maricopa, AZ lab 4 fun farm & science activities, Feb. 18, 10 am w/ @UofA.
— USDA-ARS (@USDA_ARS)

Though the terse internal note did not explicitly mention the new presidential administration, department scientists around the country interpreted it as a message from Trump that changes were coming to the department.

The memo was also met with some confusion. When asked if the notice constituted a halt on the publication of academic articles, one regional director told scientists that research papers could be published in academic journals and presented at conferences, but that all media interviews must be approved by the office of communications in Washington.

In a statement on Tuesday to BuzzFeed News, the department acknowledged sending an internal email that halted the release of “informational products like news releases and social media content” on Monday. “Scientific publications, released through peer reviewed professional journals are not included,” he added.

“As the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s chief scientific in-house research agency, ARS values and is committed to maintaining the free flow of information between our scientists and the American public as we strive to find solutions to agricultural problems affecting America,” Christopher Bentley, a spokesperson for ARS, said in the statement.

Though some Agricultural Research Service work touches on sensitive subjects like pesticides and genetically modified food, its research is generally less politically charged than that conducted by other agencies, especially those focused on understanding climate change, such as the Environmental Protection Agency.

But under the Obama administration, the Agriculture Department funneled research money into finding ways of cutting down the release of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, from cows.

The nomination of former Gov. Sonny Perdue of Georgia as agriculture secretary puts the fate of that and other department research touching on climate change into question. Like President Trump himself, Perdue has in the past bucked the overwhelming consensus among climate scientists that Earth’s atmosphere and oceans are warming due to human activity.

“It’s become a running joke among the public,” Perdue wrote in the National Review in 2014, “and liberals have lost all credibility when it comes to climate science because their arguments have become so ridiculous and so obviously disconnected from reality.”

Other agencies are under lockdown as well since Trump moved into the White House.

Employees at the National Park Service were told to stop tweeting from official park accounts. The Trump administration has also imposed a freeze on grants and contracts from the EPA, the Huffington Post and ProPublica reported on Monday. The EPA, too, is no longer issuing press releases or posting on social media, according to the reports.

source
https://www.buzzfeed.com/dinograndoni/t ... yqLaEd9rdz
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