For Second Day, Reporters Barred From EPA Event On Toxic Chemicals

UNITED STATES - MAY 16: Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt testifies during a Senate Appropriations Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Subcommittee hearing in Dirksen Building on the proposed FY2019 budget for the EPA on May 16, 2018. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call Group

The Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday barred several journalists from attending a summit on certain widely used chemicals, known as PFASs, for the second day in a row. 

Reporters from Politico and E&E News, as well as the independent journalist Mariah Blake, said they were prohibited from entering the event space. 

EPA spokesperson Jahan Wilcox justified the agency’s actions to Politico by arguing the summit was not a “federal advisory committee event” — which would require it to be public — but rather an opportunity “for EPA’s state, tribal, and federal government partners and national organizations to share a range of individual perspectives” regarding PFASs.

But according to Politico’s Emily Holden, that wasn’t the case: “I was there yesterday,” she wrote on Twitter Wednesday. “EPA was clearly collecting recommendations for future action, even if there wasn’t consensus.”

Some reporters were barred from attending the same summit on Tuesday. One Associated Press reporter, Ellen Knickmeyer, was even shoved out of the room. The agency eventually let reporters in for the latter part of the day’s proceedings.

At issue is a class of chemicals — Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances that accumulate in drinking water and that can be found in things like non-stick and stain-repellant surfaces, household cleaners and various manufacturing applications.

They’re politically toxic, as well: On Jan. 30, according to emails obtained by a FOIA request and detailed by Politico, staffers at the EPA and the White House worried that a draft study on PFASs from the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry might trigger a “public relations nightmare.” The study, the final version of which has yet to be released, found that PFASs are more dangerous at lower levels than previously thought.

On Jan. 31, according to House Energy and Commerce Committee Democrats, the EPA met with representatives from the chemical industry. 

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