EPA spokesman: Political staff won’t interfere with science

EPA spokesman: Political staff won’t interfere with science
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A Trump administration spokesman said Wednesday that political appointees will not be interfering with or filtering scientific communications at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Doug Ericksen, spokesman for the political team overseeing transition operations at the EPA on behalf of Trump, said it was “inaccurate” for The Associated Press to write in a story that all scientific studies and data coming from the EPA would undergo political reviews.

Ericksen said his comments to the AP were regarding officials’ ongoing review of the EPA’s website and communications mechanisms for potential changes under President Trump.

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“It doesn’t mean everything that comes out of EPA is going to go through a filter of political appointees with degrees in communications. That’s not what’s going to happen,” Ericksen told The Hill.

Ericksen, who is a state lawmaker in Washington, said that some changes might come to how science and data come out of the EPA.

But those changes would be dictated by scientists, not political officials, he said, adding, “Any changes will be science-based.”

The AP later changed its report to incorporate Ericksen’s clarifications.

EPA employees and allies of former President Obama have been on edge in recent days as Trump staffers have put restrictions on agency communications, grants and contracts at the EPA, as well as the departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services.

The communications blackout does mean that scientific releases are on hold, though Ericksen said that it is likely to last only a matter of days.

While the Trump administration said the efforts are temporary and normal parts of the transition process, Democrats and others have accused the administration of trying to silence federal employees.

Sen. Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyLawmakers prep for coming wave of self-driving cars Trump taps Hill veteran for White House environment job Dems unveil push to secure state voting systems MORE (D-Mass.) and 10 other Senate Democrats slammed the restrictions in a Wednesday letter to Trump.

“The American people expect an open, transparent and honest government, and your actions are not only contrary to that expectation, they promote a long lasting culture of fear among federal employees and prevent them from following their mission to openly serve the American public,” they wrote.

Ericksen told the AP that officials are “taking a look at everything on a case-by-case basis, including the web page and whether climate stuff will be taken down.”

Asked whether routine scientific data like pollution figures would be affected, the AP quoted Ericksen as saying, “Everything is subject to review.”

He chalked the AP’s interpretation of his quotes up to a “misunderstanding.”

Political filtering of scientific research would violate the EPA’s scientific integrity policy, which was instituted under Obama.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Wednesday that the communications restrictions at the EPA were not dictated from the White House.