Bay Area environmentalists say they’re appalled by the Trump administration’s freeze on business activities and communications at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The White House instituted a temporary media blackout on the EPA Tuesday and also halted the awarding of new contracts and grants. Jared Blumenfeld, former Western regional manager of the EPA, called the move extremely troubling.
"This is no joke," Blumenfeld said. "This isn’t political theater that sounds terrible but isn't. This is really, really bad."
Blumenfeld said freezing funds to contractors and local governments could have a devastating impact on everything from toxic cleanup at the state’s 94 Superfund sites to ensuring safe drinking water.
San Francisco Baykeeper Executive Director Sejal Choksi-Chugh agreed and pointed to millions of dollars in grants to restore bay wetlands as the kind of project now at risk.
"This freezing of the grants seems like one step in a multi-prong strategy to really undermine environmental regulations in this country," Choksi-Chugh said.
David Lewis, executive director of Save the Bay, says the gag order on the agency is equally chilling.
"That lack of transparency makes people expect the worst political interference in basic public health and environmental health protections," Lewis said.
In an email, an EPA spokesperson didn’t address the funding freeze, but defended the news blackout as a common practice to allow the administration to assess its activities.