EPA restores funding to Chesapeake Bay newspaper

EPA restores funding to Chesapeake Bay newspaper
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The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has reversed its controversial decision to cut off grant funding for a small newspaper that covers the Chesapeake Bay.

Kerry Neal, deputy director of the EPA’s Office of Grants and Debarment, told the Bay Journal’s attorneys Thursday that agency management had instructed that the grant be restored.

John Konkus, a political appointee in the EPA’s public affairs office, had in August ordered that the $325,000 annual grant be cut off, as part of a wide-ranging Trump administration review of EPA grants.

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The Bay Journal, a nonprofit, relies on its EPA grant for about a third of its funding. It was only one year into the five-year grant.

The former head of the EPA’s Chesapeake Bay Program told E&E News that Konkus’s decision was political, based in part on his perception of public distrust in media and the Bay Journal’s negative coverage of Trump administration decisions.

The Bay Journal had appealed Konkus’s decision.

Maryland’s Senate delegation cheered the Thursday reversal.

“The Bay Journal is a unique, highly trusted publication that serves an essential function in the Chesapeake Bay restoration effort. While I do not believe its funding should ever have been threatened, I appreciate the EPA’s willingness to re-evaluate its decision and correct its course,” said Sen. Ben CardinBenjamin (Ben) Louis CardinBiden to huddle with Senate Democrats as voting bill on brink of defeat US budget deficit narrows sharply Senate Democrats grow less confident in Manchin MORE (D-Md.).

“Today’s move by the EPA reverses a misguided decision to revoke funding for an institution that has helped contribute to the health and success of the Chesapeake Bay,” said Sen. Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenHogan won't say if he will file to run for Senate by Feb. 22 deadline Top Republicans pressing Hogan to run for Senate Democrats eager to fill power vacuum after Pelosi exit MORE (D-Md.).

The Bay Journal’s coverage focuses on the environment of the Chesapeake Bay and its ongoing cleanup, a program overseen by the EPA but one that the Trump administration wants to cut dramatically.

EPA Administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittTrump's relocation of the Bureau of Land Management was part of a familiar Republican playbook Understanding the barriers between scientists, the public and the truth Overnight Energy & Environment — Biden makes return to pre-Trump national monument boundaries official MORE told senators in January that the agency was considering restoring funding. He said he did not know about the decision to cut off the grant until after it had been made.

The Washington Post firs reported on the restoration news.