The Trump administration is currently preparing to reshape the Environmental Protection Agency in the months ahead — rolling back Obama-era rules and cutting budgets. In the meantime, President Trump’s team is freezing EPA activity for a period.
Both ProPublica and the Huffington Post report that Trump’s team has ordered a temporary freeze on all EPA grants to states and local communities until further notice [update: The EPA now says the freeze is expected to end on Friday]. The head of Trump’s EPA transition team, Myron Ebell, confirmed the freeze to Reuters.
Every year, the EPA awards billions of dollars in grants to state environmental agencies, local communities, universities, and nonprofits — intended to support a variety of environmental monitoring and remediation projects. These grants help states track air pollution and restore watersheds, or support researchers studying various environmental problems. In 2013, the agency awarded $9.6 billion in grants and $1.4 billion in private contracts.
The EPA’s database tracks the various grants it has handed out over the past 10 years. For instance, researchers at the University of New Hampshire received $102,000 to assess wetland functions. And so on. Meanwhile, this page shows the various contracts EPA has awarded to private contractors to do things like water quality monitoring. There are more than 600 in all.
The EPA hasn’t confirmed whether the freeze applies solely to new grants or to existing grants as well. An EPA staffer described the situation to Reuters this way: “Basically no money moving anywhere until they [i.e., Trump’s team] can take a look.”
We also don’t yet know how long this freeze will last — it’s likely just temporary as Trump’s team gets a feel for the agency, but no timeline has been given. [Update: After an outcry from a variety of states over this news, EPA officials said the freeze was only likely to last until Friday, January 27.]
In addition, Kate Sheppard of the Huffington Post reported that the administration has told EPA staffers not to issue any press releases, publish blog posts, or use social media until “further direction” is given.