UPDATE: The Trump administration has lifted its temporary hold on EPA grants and will allow the programs to continue as originally intended. According to a Jan. 27 email sent to agency staffers from Acting Administrator Catherine McCabe, all grants “are proceeding normally, and nothing has been delayed,” as reported by The Washington Post and other publications.
McCabe wrote that the temporary freeze on public communications was "standard practice for a transition" and went on to address the concerns of some staffers. "I realize that you may be feeling anxious about the uncertainty of these changes and that many of you have questions,” McCabe wrote, adding that, “senior EPA career officials, including myself, have been educating the President’s new transition team about many aspects of the Agency’s programs and operations."
Trump advisors have pushed back on claims that the agency will see large-scale cuts to its budget or staffing levels. The administration has also held off on plans to alter the EPA's climate change pages on its website. More will be known about the agency's future once a permanent administrator is confirmed. Nominee Scott Pruitt's committee confirmation vote is scheduled for Feb. 1.
- The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been told by the Trump administration to cease all public communications via social media, press releases, blog posts or contact with the media. Upcoming webinars will also be reviewed and no new content will be posted on the agency's website, as reported by The Huffington Post.
- The agency has also been told to freeze all grants, contracts and new hires until further notice, as confirmed by ProPublica. Whether this only applies to new items or all of the roughly $4.6 billion in existing EPA contracts is unclear.
- These directives appear to be part of a larger effort by the administration to re-frame environmental policy. As was widely reported, mentions of climate change were removed from the White House website shortly after Trump was sworn in on Jan. 20. Reuters recently reported that the EPA has been directed to remove its climate change page as well, though it is currently still active as of publication.
While observers have noted that it's not uncommon for new administrations to implement temporary holds on policy until agency leadership is confirmed, some of these moves are seen as more drastic than usual. Similar directives had been given to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and other agencies, though based on Trump's past comments the EPA may be in for some of the most significant changes. The president has vowed to make major cuts to environmental regulations and reports indicate this could affect the EPA's budget in particular.
In a recent exit memo, former administrator Gina McCarthy highlighted landfill standards and food waste reduction as key parts of future work to reduce emissions and mitigate the effects of climate change. So far, the new administration's priorities appear to be different. About 30 recent agency rules such as the 2017 Renewable Fuel Standard targets and Superfund site scoring have been put on hold and McCarthy's potential successor has struck a different tone.
While Trump's EPA chief nominee, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, has faced heavy criticism from many Democrats and environmental groups, his confirmation is likely to proceed unless enough Republicans can be convinced to vote against him. A committee vote is expected in the coming weeks. Once a new administrator takes charge of the EPA, more details will likely become clear about the agency's future. In the meantime, it's still too early to know what this will mean for the waste and recycling industry but stark differences from the Obama administration are already apparent.