President Trump Freezes EPA Grants, Institutes Social Media Blackout

In the latest move down an uncertain road, President Trump has frozen EPA grants and forbidden employees from providing updates on social media. The freeze was confirmed by Myron Ebell, the lead of Trump’s EPA transition team.

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

It’s worth noting that Ebell is the director of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, an industry-friendly group that has long fought the growth and influence of the EPA.

An EPA employee who wished to remain anonymous told Propublica that this is the first grant freeze he’s seen in nearly a decade with the EPA. Hiring freezes, such as the one signed into order by President Trump on Monday, January 23, 2017, happen frequently. A complete ban on grants, however, is something new.

Perhaps even more troubling is the ban on social media. Employees have been forbidden to issue any press releases, publish blogs, or use social media until further direction is given. And the EPA isn’t the only department that has such a ban. According to Buzzfeed, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is also under such a lockdown.

The move isn’t unexpected, however. Trump has long been a denier of climate change. This means that it’s only natural that he and his administration want to ensure that money for the EPA is flowing in whatever directions they see fit. Considering that the nominated head of the EPA is Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, the EPA is going to find itself severely hampered for the next four years.

President Trump issued an order to freeze EPA grants and contracts

Pruitt is deep in the pockets of the fossil fuel industry and is actually in the middle of a suit against the EPA and its Obama-era legislation. Pruitt also dismisses climate change as a concern and is more focused on restraining the EPA and its federal authority.

With the lockdown on information coming out of the EPA, it’s unclear how the freeze affects current grants. If the freeze only affects new grants and contracts, that’s one thing. A complete freeze on existing grants, however, is a horse of a different color. The EPA currently has about $6.4 billion in place. These contracts and grants range from handling hazardous waste to testing ground and drinking water. Grant and contract sizes range from $3,850 for a work assignment with Intellitech Systems in Dayton, Ohio, for a groundwater and drinking water study to a $45 million dollar contract with Four Points Technology for IT Hardware Acquisition. A complete list can be found on the EPA website.

The future of the EPA is now uncertain. Even though it’s not easy to dismantle such a large agency, hampering it and locking it down with a reduced budget and other mechanisms is certainly doable, especially with a GOP-controlled Congress and presidency. The last time the agency was in such dire straits was in 1981 when President Reagan appointed Anne Gorsuch Burford as head of the EPA. She immediately attempted to dismantle the agency by slashing the budget and promoting voluntary compliance with regulations. It was only after her refusal to turn over documents to Congress that she was ousted. However, that was with a Democrat-controlled House.

Social media blackout and EPA grant freezes by President Trump

The signs that President Trump is going to begin deregulating industries are clear. From his order that he will be allowing DAPL to proceed to the grant freezes, the deregulation is a necessary step in luring manufacturing back to the United States, which has been one of his core campaign promises.

What do you think? Is this a good move? Is the EPA overstepping its bounds? Let us know in the comments below

[Featured Image by Evan Vucci/AP Images]