Following the removal of all mentions of climate change from the White House website, the new administration has apparently trained its sights on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The EPA and a handful of other government agencies are now reportedly under gag orders: employees are forbidden to discuss ongoing changes, post new material on agency websites, communicate on social media, or respond to queries from media or the public.
This morning, further reports emerged that the agency has been told to remove all mentions of climate change from its website.
In particular, the EPA site contains a page that includes links to scientific global-warming research, supported by detailed measurements of emissions from individual industrial sites, along with the Climate Change Indicators report—collectively assembled by multiple agencies—that analyzes and describes trends, causes, and effects of climate changes.
Over the past two weeks, according to unconfirmed reports, multiple scientists and volunteers have been working to download and archive that data in case it was removed from the agency's site.
Now, according to Reuters, two different EPA employees confirmed that the agency had been instructed to remove the climate-change page from its website by the Trump administration.
UPDATE: As of Friday morning, January 27, the EPA Climate Change pages were still live—according to some media reports, due to public pressure and media coverage of the order to remove them.
Donald J. Trump in November 2016 [photo: The Trump Organization]
Late yesterday, an article by USA Today indicated that the freeze on funding of all grants to states for environmental monitoring and other purposes has been lifted.
An EPA spokesman told the newspaper that "no decision has been made about what the agency’s website will say about climate change," and that the gag order on EPA employees remains in place.
The page could be removed as early as today, said Reuters' sources. They requested anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media—although under the gag order, it remains unclear whether any individual at the EPA could respond to media inquiries.
The Trump administration also did not respond to Reuters' questions on the matter.
As of Monday, the EPA was also instructed to freeze all grants awards and contracts, threatening to disrupt even its basic ongoing operations.
The nonprofit investigative website Pro Publica quoted an EPA employee who said that unlike a hiring freeze, often seen during administration transitions, a freeze on grants and contacts was "extraordinary" and unprecedented.
U.S. Capitol Building
The agency has more than $6 billion of contracts in operation at the moment, supporting municipal, state, and private environmental testing, remediation, and research projects.
Because the agency and the administration have not responded to media inquiries on the freeze, it remains unclear whether the freeze applies only to new grants and contracts or also to existing ones.
Halting payments on existing contracts could disrupt even core operations, including monitoring water cleanups and ongoing environmental testing.
EPA employees were also instructed not to discuss the freeze on grants and contracts, or indeed to respond to any inquiries of any sort, according to earlier reporting by Huffington Post and other sources.
The White House, Washington, D.C. [Creative Commons license by dcjohn]
A memo provided by an agency employee, but not confirmed by EPA officials, banned any new press releases, social-media posts, blog postings, or website updates at all.
All social-media accounts, ongoing webinars, external speaking commitments, list servers, and incoming requests are to be reviewed by the incoming team, known as the "Beach Team."
In related news, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control has canceled a major conference on the health impacts of global warming planned for February.
The new president's nominee to run the EPA, Scott Pruitt, has denied the accepted scientific consensus on climate change.
Oklahoma attorney general Scott Pruitt, 2014
As Oklahoma attorney general, he sued the agency more than a dozen times to prevent it from enforcing its regulations, including many concerning fracking.
Pruitt faced intense questioning during his confirmation hearings last week, and a Senate vote on his nomination has not yet been scheduled.
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