On Monday, the administration of President Trump – who falsely asserts that climate change is a ‘hoax’ – cancelled the appearances of three EPA scientists who were scheduled to talk about global warming at a conference in Rhode Island.
Trump’s EPA Administrator, Scott Pruitt, a close ally of the oil and gas industry, has terminated EPA grants related to the study of greenhouse gas pollution. He’s also removed EPA web pages related to climate change, according to The Washington Post.
On August 23, the Trump Administration abruptly cancelled a $325,000 annual EPA grant to the Chesapeake Bay Journal in the second year of what was supposed to be a six-year agreement. This put the 27 year old journalistic institution, which reports on climate change and many other issues critical to the Chesapeake, in immediate risk of severe cuts or closure.
In an email to the Bay Journal, EPA explained its move as a “shift in priorities” by the Trump Administration – but offered no more detailed reason.
U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen of Maryland said he sees a troubling possible link between the Trump Administration’s political position on climate change and its effort to kill a respected, science-based publication.
“Oh, there is no doubt that under Scott Pruitt’s leadership the EPA has gone on a witch hunt against anything related to climate change,” Van Hollen said. “In other words, they’ve barred their scientists from participating in conferences on climate change. They’ve scrubbed their websites. I mean, there is a very anti-science, anti-evidence bent in the EPA under Scott Pruitt’s leadership. So it’s downright dangerous for the Trump Administration and the EPA under Scott Pruitt’s leadership to wage this war against evidence, to wage this war against the science of climate change. That seems to be what’s happening across the board. And while they didn’t say it, it may be the Bay Journal is a victim of that.”
Last week, Senator Van Hollen and Senator Ben Cardin, also of Maryland, sent a letter to EPA Administrator Pruitt urging him to restore the funding for the Bay Journal.
“There is clearly hostility in this administration to independent reporting, to First Amendment issues,” Cardin said in an interview. “There is also a hostility to facts and science, which is of course the basis of the bay program, based upon best science. So clearly we’ve seen over and over again that the Trump Administration wants to control the information, rather than allow the independent evaluation of information.”
Karl Blankenship has been the editor of the Bay Journal for all 27 years of its existence. He said the publication has always been vigilant in maintaining editorial independence, despite the federal grant. Absorbing a $325,000 cut, however, could be devastating, Blankenship said.
“It’s about 40 percent of our budget and it has the potential to have a profound impact on staffing,” Blankenship said. “It’s certainly a lot to keep me awake at night about.”
The Bay Journal is not going down without a fight, however. The newspaper has been talking with philanthropic organizations about possible replacement grants, and is appealing directly to the public for help. You can subscribe – for free – to the Bay Journal at www.bayjournal.com and also make donations through that site to help keep it alive.
Especially at a time when most other newspapers and TV stations covering the bay have slashed their reporting staffs, those who care about environmental issues know it would be a profound loss to have the voice of the Chesapeake silenced because of a change in the political climate.