EPA Now Requires Political Aide’s Sign-off For Agency Awards, Grant Applications

2017-09-05T17:45:48+00:00 September 5, 2017|
Logo of the Environmental Protection Agency (Credit: EPA)

(Click to enlarge) Logo of the Environmental Protection Agency (Credit: EPA)

The Environmental Protection Agency has taken the unusual step of putting a political operative in charge of vetting the hundreds of millions of dollars in grants the EPA distributes annually, assigning final funding decisions to a former Trump campaign aide with little environmental policy experience.

(From Washington Post/ by Juliet Eliperin)– In this role, John Konkus reviews every award the agency gives out, along with every grant solicitation before it is issued. According to both career and political employees, Konkus has told staff that he is on the lookout for “the double C-word” — climate change — and repeatedly has instructed grant officers to eliminate references to the subject in solicitations.

Konkus, who officially works in the EPA’s public affairs office, has canceled close to $2 million competitively awarded to universities and nonprofit organizations. Although his review has primarily affected Obama administration priorities, it is the heavily Republican state of Alaska that has undergone the most scrutiny so far.

EPA spokeswoman Liz Bowman said that grant decisions “are to ensure funding is in line with the Agency’s mission and policy priorities,” with the number of awards denied amounting to just 1 percent of those made since EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt took office. “We review grants to see if they are providing tangible results to the American people,” she said in an email.

But the agency’s new system has raised concerns among career officials and outside experts, as well as questions among some in Congress that the EPA grant program is being politicized at the expense of their states.

Earlier this summer, on the same day that Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska joined with two other Republicans in voting down a GOP health-care bill, EPA staffers were instructed without any explanation to halt all grants to the regional office that covers Alaska, Washington, Oregon and Idaho. That hold was quickly narrowed just to Alaska and remained in place for nearly two weeks.

The ideological shift is a clear break from the practices of previous Republican and Democratic administrations. It bears the hallmarks not just of Pruitt’s tenure but of President Trump’s, reflecting skepticism of climate science, advocacy groups and academia.

Read the full story here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/epa-now-requires-political-aides-sign-off-for-agency-awards-grant-applications/2017/09/04/2fd707a0-88fd-11e7-a94f-3139abce39f5_story.html?utm_term=.e0c19326f280