The Environmental Protection Agency is stuck in what insiders call a "holding pattern" after a Trump administration order that freezes all EPA grants and contracts. "New EPA administration has asked that all contract and grant awards be temporarily suspended, effective immediately,” an email obtained by the Washington Post states. "Please construe this to include task orders and work assignments," states the email, which was sent on Friday, within hours of Trump's swearing in. The email says the agency hopes to receive more clarification soon on the order, which could affect everything from climate research and education to waste handling and water testing. Trump has nominated longtime EPA critic Scott Pruit to run the agency.
Myron Ebell, the prominent climate skeptic who ran the EPA transition for the Trump team, tells ProPublica that the move isn't unusual, though it may be wider than what previous administrations have done. "They're trying to freeze things to make sure nothing happens they don’t want to have happen, so any regulations going forward, contracts, grants, hires, they want to make sure to look at them first," he says. A source tells the Huffington Post that EPA staffers have been ordered not to discuss the freeze with anybody outside the agency. There also has been a freeze on EPA press releases and social media postings, according to a memo obtained by the HuffPo. (On Monday, Trump brought in a federal hiring freeze.)