In the few days that Donald Trump has been in the White House, his administration has directed employees at the EPA to freeze its grants and contracts – a move that could prove to be a hurdle for state-led climate research, localized efforts to improve air quality, and environmental justice projects aimed at helping the poor. 
With hours of swearing-in on January 20, an e-mail was sent to employees in the EPA’s Office of Acquisition Management stating:
“New EPA administration has asked that all contract and grant awards be temporarily suspended, effective immediately. Until we receive further clarification, which we hope to have soon, please construe this to include task orders and work assignments.”
The agency states on its website that it gives more than $4 billion in funding for grants and other assistance agreements, which typically help scientists, state and local officials, universities, and Native American tribes.
An EPA spokesperson said:
“EPA staff have been reviewing grants and contracts information with the incoming transition team. Pursuant to that review, the agency is continuing to award the environmental program grants and state revolving loan fund grants to the states and tribes; and we are working to quickly address issues related to other categories of grants.”
The agency said it hopes to complete the grants and contracts review by the close of business on January 27.
Myron Ebell, who oversaw the EPA transition for the new administration, said the freezing of grants and contracts was not unprecedented.
“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.
This may be a little wider than some previous administrations, but it’s very similar to what others have done.”
But President Trump not only froze the EPA’s grants and contracts, it also ordered the agency – along with Interior Department, the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) – not to discuss the freeze, or anything else, with the media. 
According to an EPA source, the agency has been told not to speak to reporters or publish any press releases or blog posts on social media. Furthermore, EPA staff have been asked not to publicize any talks, conferences, or webinars that had been planned for the next 60 days.
Environmental groups are furious with the new administration’s orders, and New York’s attorney general, Eric Schneiderman, said that his office “will examine all legal options to ensure the EPA meets its obligations to keep our state’s air and water safe.”
Further, Trump’s yet-to-be confirmed pick for EPA administrator, Scott Pruitt, is no friend of the EPA – which could complicate things for the agency even further. While serving as attorney general of Oklahoma, Pruitt regularly clashed with the agency over environmental regulations, and described himself as “a leading advocate against the EPA’s activist agenda.” 
Trump, who believes climate change is a hoax perpetrated by China, has promised to promote oil drilling and mining by cutting regulation. Those cuts include former President Barack Obama’s initiative to fight climate change. Trump has also hinted that he might pull the U.S. out of a global pact on climate change signed by nearly 200 countries last year.