Anonymous leaks, rumoured gag orders, and apparent threats to basic science have created lots of drama in the first days of Trump’s control of the EPA.
But the Trump administration, outside a few less-than-clear comments from Press Secretary Sean Spicer, hasn’t actually explained what’s going on.
The agency has gone dark. It’s largely stopped answering questions from reporters, cut off online communications, and cancelled public appearances by its staff — apparently due to an alleged gag order from the White House (though Spicer denied Wednesday that any such order exists.)
In the meantime, information leaks out in dribs and drabs from anonymous sources within the agency:
Trump wants to ban the EPA from funding science; he’s frozen all EPA new contracts and grants; he’s ordered the agency to take down its climate change data; his former transition head says probably just the links are coming down, not the data; actually he isn’t taking down the data after all.
Meanwhile, the only sign of life we do get from the agency is a plan to delay 30 regulations from the Obama era for Trump’s team to review, including the renewable fuel standard.
How big a deal is all of this? Should you be worried? What the hell is going on? It’s literally my job to follow EPA news, and yet myself and other reporters are still in the dark. So it’s hard to imagine an average citizen knows what’s going on either.
We do know a little about Trump’s feelings about the EPA. Whitehouse.gov’s “America First Energy Plan” page promises that, “President Trump will refocus the EPA on its essential mission of protecting our air and water,” which is just vague enough to offer no specific answers to any of these questions, while suggesting that radical enough changes are coming that any leak seems at least plausible.
Scientists, businesses, and people who want to drink clean water are waiting on news about what’s going to happen to the agency. Right now, anonymous leaks are controlling the narrative. Trump and his administration could do himself and everyone else a favour by telling us what, precisely, is going on.
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