EPA reconsidering whether to cut off Chesapeake newspaper’s funding

EPA reconsidering whether to cut off Chesapeake newspaper’s funding
© Greg Nash

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is reconsidering its decision to cut off federal funding to a newspaper that covers environmental issues related to the Chesapeake Bay.

EPA Administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittGovernment watchdog probing EPA’s handling of Hurricane Harvey response Wheeler won’t stop America’s addiction to fossil fuels Overnight Energy: Trump rolls back methane pollution rule | EPA watchdog to step down | China puts tariffs on US gas MORE told senators Tuesday that he learned about the decision to end the Bay Journal’s ongoing grant and disagreed with the way that it was done.

“I think that was a decision that — I learned of that decision after the fact and I think it was probably a decision that should not have been made in the way that it was. So it’s under reconsideration already,” Pruitt told Maryland Sen. Ben CardinBenjamin (Ben) Louis CardinOvernight Health Care: Senators target surprise medical bills | Group looks to allow Medicaid funds for substance abuse programs | FDA launches anti-vaping campaign for teens Bipartisan group wants to lift Medicaid restriction on substance abuse treatment More Dems come out in public opposition to Kavanaugh MORE (D) during a hearing before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

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The six-year Bay Journal grant was worth about $1.95 million. The independent newspaper gets funding from multiple sources, but its EPA grant provides about a third of its money.

The nonprofit newspaper aims to cover issues related to the ongoing cleanup efforts for the Chesapeake Bay and other issues related to the bay.

The grant was cut off by John Konkus, a Trump administration political appointee in the EPA’s communications office who was tasked last year with reviewing all of the agency’s grants.

E&E News reported earlier this month that Konkus made the call to cut off the journal’s funding for political reasons.

Nicholas DiPasquale, who recently retired as head of the EPA’s Chesapeake Bay program, told E&E that Konkus said the public does not trust the media, so the EPA shouldn’t be funding media outlets. The EPA declined to confirm or deny the reporting.

Cardin told Pruitt that the communities around the Chesapeake Bay value the Bay Journal.

“Public information about the bay is very, very important and the leading source of that is the Bay Journal,” Cardin said. “I would just urge you to give us time to make sure that this program continues, because it is an important part of our public-private partnership.”