Trump's Political Staff Vetting EPA's Science Before Release
Trump puts 'temporary hold' on scientific environmental information so appointees can review it first
The Trump administration is vetting the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) pending work before allowing it to be published, in the president's latest crackdown on federal bureaus and science in general.
According to Doug Ericksen, communications director for Trump's transition team at the EPA, the mandate refers to "all existing content on the federal agency's website, including details of scientific evidence showing that the Earth's climate is warming and man-made carbon emissions are to blame," the Associated Press reports.
New work is also on a "temporary hold" before it can be released, the AP said.
Erikson clarified earlier statements made to the outlet that indicated all future information would be subject to political review before publication, noting that the mandate only applies to existing data, and that the hold should be lifted by Friday. However, he said during the earlier interview, "We're taking a look at everything on a case-by-case basis, including the web page and whether climate stuff will be taken down."
The clarifications did little to quell public fear that Trump had essentially launched a war on science, especially after one of the administration's first moves was to scrub any mention of combating climate change from the official White House website.
The review mandate also follows a series of other orders from Trump that are seemingly intended to prevent the dissemination of scientific data, including putting a media blackout on several federal departments and a freeze on EPA hiring and grants (though that, too, may end on Friday). The widespread crackdown prompted an unofficial resistance movement, including the creation of numerous "rogue" agency Twitter accounts, such as @AltUSNatParkService, @RogueNASA, @ungaggedEPA, @ActualEPAFacts, and @AltHHS.
Former EPA staffers under Republican and Democratic presidents said the restrictions go far beyond anything seen in previous administrations.
Jared Blumenfeld, who until last year served as EPA's regional administrator for California and the Pacific Northwest, compared the actions to a "hostile takeover."
"Ericksen and these other folks that have been brought in...have basically put a hold on everything," he told the AP. "The level of mismanagement being exercised during this transition is startling and the impact on the public is alarming."
Indeed, the latest crackdown on public information "should terrify you," writes Michael Hiltzik at the Los Angeles Times, describing Trump as being "at war with science and knowledge."
"Researchers in government and elsewhere are concerned that shutting down outside communications is merely the first step in a campaign to undermine the credibility of established science," he writes. "As Alex Parker, an astronomer at the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colo., observed in a tweet this week: 'Barring public communication from science agencies reduces their visibility, which masks their value, which makes them easier to dismantle.'"
Trump has said he believes climate change is a hoax made up by the Chinese. His nominee for EPA chief, Scott Pruitt, said during his Senate confirmation hearing that he disagrees with that stance, but he too has a track record of questioning climate science—and suing the EPA.
Legal experts on Thursday said Pruitt abandoned environmental protections while serving as the Attorney General of Oklahoma.