The controversial freeze imposed by the Trump administration on all grants and contracts by the Environmental Protection Agency is set to end Friday, according to E&E News, a trade publication for energy and environment professionals.
The freeze was announced yesterday and caused a huge outcry in the scientific community. Reuters also reported last night that EPA staff was ordered to take down the agency's climate change page from its website; that also caused massive backlash from scientists, the public, and the media. Today, the Trump administration seems to have walked away from that plan.
The freeze on the EPA grants is apparently only temporary. The EPA staff is in the process of reviewing grant programs with Trump’s transition team, according to an internal email obtained by E&E News. "EPA staff have been reviewing grants and contracts information with the incoming transition team. Pursuant to that review, the Agency is continuing to award the environmental program grants and state revolving loan fund grants to the states and tribes; and we are working to quickly address issues related to other categories of grants. The goal is to complete the grants and contracts review by the close of business on Friday, January 27," the email read.
The EPA’s roughly $4 billion grant program affects organizations at every level, from local nonprofits to state governments. And they’re used for all kinds of things, from wastewater treatment to air pollution management. It’s not exactly clear which grants have been affected, but the freeze was instituted so that the new administration had time to review what the money is being spent on, according to Doug Ericksen, the Trump transition team's communications lead for EPA.
"We want to make sure that grants reflect the new administration and that money is not being wasted," Ericksen said, according to E&E News. "President Trump is obviously concerned about taxpayer money."
Putting a temporary freeze on grants and contracts is not entirely unusual for a new president. Of course, it depends how long the freeze lasts. In Trump’s case, it seems that the freeze was imposed because the new administration didn’t conduct its assessment of the EPA’s work before taking office. When the Obama administration stepped in, no such freeze was necessary, according to Scott Fulton, EPA general counsel under Obama. "The assessment was done before the inauguration as opposed to after," he told E&E News.
If the review is done by Friday, all should go back to normal by next week.