EPA scientists free to speak, chief says

Posted: December 7, 2017 at 3:54 a.m.

WASHINGTON — Scientists at the Environmental Protection Agency will be free to publicly discuss their work from now on, Scott Pruitt, the agency’s administrator, has assured lawmakers who criticized the EPA for preventing employees from presenting findings about climate change.

In a letter Monday to U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., Pruitt did not explain why the agency had canceled the presentations of two EPA scientists and one consultant who were scheduled to speak in Providence in October about the health of the Narragansett Bay, nor did he address whether the agency had acted improperly.

“Procedures have been put in place to prevent such an occurrence in the future,” Pruitt wrote. He said he had assured staff members within the EPA’s offices of research and development throughout the country that they had the authority to make decisions about participation in events.

“I am committed to holding up the EPA’s scientific integrity policy, which ensures that the agency’s scientific work is of the highest quality, is presented openly and with integrity and is free from political interference,” Pruitt wrote.

Whitehouse and 11 other Democrats from New England who challenged the EPA’s move said they were pleased with Pruitt’s response but would remain vigilant.

“After the EPA’s reckless and shortsighted decision to muzzle its own scientists from presenting to the Narragansett Bay Estuary Program, we appreciate Administrator Pruitt’s commitment never to let this happen again,” the lawmakers said in a statement issued Wednesday. “We will hold him to that commitment.”