White House temporarily freezes EPA grants, contracts

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By Valerie Volcovici and Richard Valdmanis | WASHINGTON

WASHINGTON U.S. President Donald Trump’s
administration has asked the Environmental Protection Agency to
temporarily halt all contracts, grants and interagency
agreements pending a review, according to sources.

The White House sent a letter to the EPA’s Office of
Administration and Resources Management ordering the freeze on
Monday, an EPA staffer told Reuters. “Basically no money moving
anywhere until they can take a look,” the staffer said, asking
not to be named.

The EPA awards billions of dollars worth of grants and
contracts every year to support programs around environmental
testing, cleanups and research. It was unclear if the freeze
would impact existing contracts, grants and agreements or just
future ones.

Myron Ebell, who headed Trump’s EPA transition team until
his inauguration last week, said he believed the move was
related to Trump’s executive order on Monday temporarily halting
all government hiring outside the military.

“A freeze at EPA on some other things like grants and
contracts appears to have happened,” Ebell told Reuters in an
email Tuesday morning.

The freeze was first reported by ProPublica on Monday and
Ebell said it was similar to what has happened during previous
presidential transitions.

Trump has promised to slash U.S. environmental regulation as
a way to promote oil drilling and mining. An administration
official told Reuters the president would sign two executive
actions on Tuesday to advance construction of the Keystone XL
and Dakota Access pipelines, a sharp reversal from the Obama
administration.

Trump’s nominee to run the EPA, Oklahoma Attorney General
Scott Pruitt, is awaiting Senate confirmation. Pruitt sued the
EPA repeatedly as Oklahoma’s top prosecutor.

Trump also has drawn heavily from the energy industry lobby
and pro-drilling think tanks to build its landing team for the
EPA, according to a list of the newly introduced 10-member team
seen by Reuters on Monday.

An EPA spokesman did not immediately respond to a request
for comment.



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