EPA: Rep. Kildee 'mischaracterized' barring of staffer from chemical summit

EPA: Rep. Kildee 'mischaracterized' barring of staffer from chemical summit
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The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is defending a decision to restrict attendance to the second day of a summit on hazardous chemicals, calling a congressman's criticism that his staff was barred from coming a "mischaracterization."

In a letter sent to Rep. Dan KildeeDaniel (Dan) Timothy KildeeOvernight Energy: Mark Ruffalo pushes Congress on 'forever chemicals' | Lawmakers spar over actor's testimony | House Dems unveil renewable energy tax plan | Funding for conservation program passes Senate hurdle Mark Ruffalo pushes Congress for action on 'forever chemicals' Mark Ruffalo brings fight against 'forever chemicals' to Capitol Hill MORE (D-Mich.) Tuesday, EPA Associate Administrator Troy Lyons criticized Kildee for publicizing to media the accusation that his staff was restricted from attending the event on per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) last week, insinuating that the media blitz was a political ploy.

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"In our email communications with your office, EPA made it clear that the summit continued into May 23, but would be limited to federal agency and state representatives," Lyons wrote in the letter obtained by The Hill. "Regardless of these details, a representative from your office arrived on May 23 with less than two hours before the entire event concluded. Your office subsequently proceeded to tell members of the media that the agency barred your staff from the summit, which mischaracterized the events that took place."

Lyons additionally wrote that Kildee's staff did not attend the summit on May 22, the day it was open to congressional staffers, despite having RSVP'd. 

Kildee last week tweeted that his staff was barred from attending the summit to discuss the potential health effects of PFAS in drinking water and how to regulate it.

“My staff was not allowed to attend today’s @EPA #PFAS summit, and I represent communities affected by drinking water contamination,” Kildee tweeted. “@EPAScottPruitt’s lack of transparency and willingness to deny access to Members of Congress and the media is deeply troubling.”

Kildee also published an op-ed in the Detroit Free Press and appeared on television sharing his outrage.

Kildee's district includes Flint. The town has been battling a water crisis since 2014, when the water supply was switched from Lake Huron to the Flint River, leading to lead poisoning from the city’s water pipe delivery system.

Kildee’s chief of staff, Mitchell Rivard, said it would be hard to mischaracterize what the EPA was doing.

 

“It is hard to mischaracterize the EPA’s actions—it had been widely reported that the EPA blocked both journalists and a congressional office from the taxpayer-funded PFAS summit. Administrator Pruitt’s lack of transparency should be concerning to all Americans,” Rivard told The Hill in a statement Tuesday.

EPA additionally came under fire last week for barring reporters from attending both days of the summit. Only a select number of outlets, including The Hill, were invited to attend the first day of the summit for only the first hour. Representatives of other news outlets who tried to cover the event were turned away at the door, including an Associated Press reporter who was escorted out by security, according to the wire service. The agency later opened up the entire first day of the summit to all journalists but kept the second day restricted.

Kildee sent a letter Thursday to the EPA's inspector general asking for a "fair and thorough" investigation into whether the agency violated any statutes or laws related to government transparency.

"I am very troubled by Administrator Pruitt and the EPA's attempt to block access to taxpayer-funded meeting, either for journalists or members of Congress. Simply put, the public has a right to know what is happening in their government," Kildee wrote.