Freeze on EPA grants puts clean water, clean air at risk as agency goes silent

Questions swirl around a recent unexplained decision to freeze Environmental Protection Agency grants that coincided with an agency order that employees not discuss the move on social media or with reporters. (© iStock)

Memos circulated at the Environmental Protection Agency in the first days of the Trump administration put a freeze on the agency’s grants, as well as a gag order on EPA officials discussing the grant freeze.

The length and depth of this freeze is unknown, as the freeze was not accompanied by any publically available documents, making its implications still unclear.

The EPA has awarded billions of dollars to Southeastern states through hundreds of grants in the past ten years to reduce air and water pollution, get lead out of drinking water, clean up hazardous waste sites, and protect the health of citizens. These Environmental Protection Agency grants make a real difference in the health of families and communities across the Southeast.

"The first problem is no one knows exactly what this means. Very few details have been shared about what local and state programs are affected, and EPA officials have been forbidden from sharing any information with the public,” said Nat Mund, SELC Legislative Director. “But there's the potential that this could have a significant local impact. We're not talking about some Washington policy debate; these are programs and jobs in our local communities that provide critical services for clean water and air. We need answers now."

The lack of information provided has caused considerable anxiety because of the wide array of programs it could impact, including numerous projects happening on the state and local level that are essential to clean water, clean air and healthy communities.

“This directive targets public agencies that have responsibilities for environmental protection and scientific research and, for now, prohibits taxpayer-funded science from being shared with the public,” said Derb Carter, Director of SELC’s North Carolina offices. “We hope this is not the beginning of an effort by the Trump administration to replace real science with alternative science.”   

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