RELEASE: CAP and Union of Concerned Scientists Seek Investigation Into EPA’s Grant-Making Process

Washington, D.C. — Today, the Center for American Progress and the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) called on the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) inspector general to investigate the agency’s grant-making process, reports of political interference, and the cancellation of some grants.

Both CAP and the UCS are concerned with ensuring scientific integrity when it comes to protecting the environment and public health. That’s why they are asking the IG to look into reports that the agency’s political communications staff are reviewing and approving all grants awarded—rather than following the standard procedures designed to ensure that the agency funds the most promising research.

The Washington Post reported earlier this month that Trump administration appointees in the Office of Public Affairs have reviewed every EPA grant and grant solicitation, canceling almost $2 million worth of grants to nonpartisan research universities and nonprofits in that process. The report also suggested that a temporary hold on all awards to Alaska may have been in retaliation for Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s (R-AK) vote on health care legislation pending at the time.

Such alleged interference raises serious concerns about the integrity of the grant-making process and whether the EPA is using political—instead of scientific—criteria to determine grant awards. These decisions also may reflect improper conflicts of interest or constitute violations of the Hatch Ac.

Read a copy of the letter to Inspector General Arthur A. Elkins Jr. here.

The request comes amid other reports that government watchdogs are already reviewing several actions by Trump administration officials. According to Politico:

  • The Government Accountability Office (GAO) is investigating warnings that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke allegedly delivered to Alaska’s lawmakers after Murkowski voted against repealing the Affordable Care Act.
  • The Interior Department’s IG is probing Zinke’s decision to transfer senior staff members, including Joel Clement from a managerial position involving climate change issues to a job collecting royalties from oil and gas companies.
  • The GAO is examining the potentially inappropriate hiring of various political appointees at the EPA and the White House Council on Environmental Quality, as well as whether those officials are complying with ethics requirements.

For more information on this topic or to speak with an expert, contact Sam Hananel at shananel@americanprogress.org or 202-478-6327 or Seth Michaels at smichaels@ucsusa.org or 202-331-5662.