The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is having a rough week. On Tuesday, it was revealed that reporters from the Associated Press, CNN, and E&E News were barred from entering an EPA summit on toxic chemicals. When an AP reporter tried to enter the summit, she was reportedly “forcibly” removed. Though the EPA eventually relented and allowed press to cover the event, it was too late to stop an afternoon of negative coverage.
Wednesday did not prove any better for the agency’s image. In a tweet, Rep. Dan Kildee (D-MI) said the EPA barred his staff from attending a summit on water contamination.
My staff was not allowed to attend today's @EPA #PFAS summit, and I represent communities affected by drinking water contamination. @EPAScottPruitt's lack of transparency and willingness to deny access to Members of Congress and the media is deeply troubling. https://t.co/TK6ojDQ77o
— Rep. Dan Kildee (@RepDanKildee) May 23, 2018
What’s especially concerning about this move is that Kildee represents Flint, Michigan, the site of an ongoing toxic water crisis. It shouldn’t have been a surprise to EPA officials that Flint’s congressional representative would find it necessary to attend an event concerning the very issue plaguing his constituents.
The state government recently stopped providing bottled water to the town, arguing that Flint’s water is now safe. This move did not sit well with residents. On Tuesday, Gov. Rick Snyder’s (R) office was stormed by 100 protesters who demanded the state begin providing bottled water once again. And as Mother Jones has reported, residents aren’t buying local officials’ claims and scientists are hesitant to agree with the government that the water is safe to drink.
Kildee wasn’t the only member of Congress with something to say about the controversy. Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE) questioned who the EPA was really serving with this event, saying on Twitter that the agency was “more concerned with protecting the EPA chemical summit from the public than it is with protecting the public from harmful chemicals.”
I can’t believe I have to say this two days in a row, but @EPA works for the American people. Unfortunately, it’s clear that this EPA is more concerned with protecting the EPA chemical summit from the public than it is with protecting the public from harmful chemicals. https://t.co/zt38ORIi3n
— Senator Tom Carper (@SenatorCarper) May 23, 2018
In addition, the EPA once again barred press from covering Wednesday’s event. This move prompted a swift and pointed response from the Society of Environmental Journalists, who told EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt in a letter “there is no justification for secrecy here.”
The EPA defended itself, with spokesman Jahan Wilcox telling Politico that “the National Leadership Summit on PFAS scheduled is not a federal advisory committee event. The purpose of this event is for EPA’s state, tribal, and federal government partners and national organizations to share a range of individual perspectives on the Agency’s actions to date and path forward on [the chemicals].”