EPA Ordered to Freeze All Contracts and Grant Programs, Including Environmental Justice Ones

By Yessenia Funes Jan 24, 2017

The Donald Trump-led White House has already taken steps to impact reproductive rights, housing rights and healthcare. Next on the agenda is the environment.

Sources at the EPA leaked to several media outlets yesterday (January 23) that the administration has ordered the agency to freeze its contracts and grant programs nationwide. These grants fund state- and tribe-led climate work, environmental justice research, clean up of contaminated brownfields, air quality research and much more. Employees aren’t supposed to discuss the order outside the agency.

An EPA contracting officer ended an email to a storm water management employee, according to ProPublica, by writing:

“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.”

An EPA employee who remained anonymous told ProPublica that “he had never seen anything like it in nearly a decade with the agency.” The agency has yet to release an official statement on these allegations, but climate skeptic Myron Ebell, who oversaw the EPA transition from former President Barack Obama to Trump, said late last night to ProPublica:

“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.”

The leak doesn’t clarify whether the EPA has frozen active grants and contracts or will freeze only new ones. Currently, the EPA has environmental justice grants out across the United States—including healthy nail salons in California, climate resiliency in the Gulf of Mexico, green infrastructure development in Wisconsin and illegal dumping prevention in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Between the years 2014 to 2016, the agency has awarded over $3 million toward environmental justice projects.

(H/t ProPublica)