Washington, DC – After the Environmental Protection Agency
(EPA) canceled presentations by its scientists at a workshop on the health of
Narragansett Bay—an event focusing on the challenges climate change and other
threats pose for the critical economic resource—members of Congress from Rhode
Island and Massachusetts are demanding an explanation from EPA Administrator
Scott Pruitt. In a letter, Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Edward J.
Markey (D-MA), Jack Reed (D-RI), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and
Representatives Richard Neal (D-MA), Jim McGovern (D-MA), Jim Langevin (D-RI),
David Cicilline (D-RI), Joe Kennedy (D-MA), Katherine Clark (D-MA), and Seth
Moulton (D-MA) asked Pruitt how he would react if the federal government
silenced experts from his home state on a topic of the utmost importance to
local communities’ health and economic wellbeing.
“You would not have taken kindly to Washington bureaucrats
telling scientists in Oklahoma they couldn’t speak with Oklahoma organizations
to come up with ‘neighborhood solutions’ to better protect public health and a
critical economic asset,” the members write. “Neither do we.”
The State of the Narragansett Bay and Its Watershed workshop
took place in Providence, RI, on October 23, and centered on the release of a
500-page report detailing the health of the Bay, problems it faces, and the
progress made to address these issues. The EPA, which helped fund the research
through its administration of the National Estuary Program (NEP), was scheduled
to send three EPA-affiliated scientists to present material they had
contributed to the report and share their expertise on the challenges facing
the Bay. Just days before the workshop and without explanation, the EPA
barred the scientists from presenting.
The EPA’s actions were a “blatant example of the scientific
censorship we all suspected was going to start being enforced at EPA” under
Administrator Pruitt’s leadership, chair of the science advisory committee of
the Narragansett Bay Estuary Program John King told the New York Times.
According to the Times’s reporting, at least one of the EPA scientists had
planned to address climate change and related factors in her presentation.
“They don’t believe in climate change, so I think what they’re trying to do is
stifle discussions of the impacts of climate change,” King added.
“Narragansett Bay is one of Rhode Island’s and
Massachusetts’ most important economic assets,” the members note. “The
[Narragansett Bay Estuary Program] and other environmental organizations in the
Narragansett Bay watershed have long relied upon the expertise of EPA
scientists to provide the data and analysis needed to plan for its future. . .
. If EPA scientists are not allowed to participate in a workshop discussing the
results of scientific research because that workshop included a discussion of
climate change, that begs the question whether EPA will censor NEP grantees
from discussing climate change . . . .”