Environmental Protection Agency staff members are no longer allowed to speak to reporters or post to social media.
President Donald Trump's administration sent out emails detailing the new restrictions placed on the agency, which bans them from issuing press releases, updating blogs or posting on the agency's social media accounts, The Associated Press reported on Jan. 24.
The department is also subject to a "temporary suspension," effective immediately, of all new business dealings, which will prevent it from issuing task orders, assigning work to contractors, and awarding grants or contracts.
"When it comes to the grants freeze, this could be especially problematic at the state level," a former EPA official under the Obama administration told The Huffington Post. "EPA sends a huge amount of its budget to the states, where it is ultimately spent. That's where you could ultimately see the most negative impacts, especially at times when states are already suffering budget challenges. Time will tell, but this is not a great start when it comes to supporting states or transparency and a commitment to sharing important information with the public."
The media blackout applies to other federal agencies as well. The Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health and U.S. Department of Agriculture reportedly received similar memos.
"The HHS guidance instructs HHS Operating Divisions to hold on publishing new rules or guidance in the Federal Register or other public forums and discussing them with public officials until the Administration has had an opportunity to review them," an NIH official told The Huffington Post of the memo.
The official said they were instructed to refer questions to the heads of their agencies, at least until the leaders have ample time to meet with White House staff.
One or more of these memos may have been sent in error. Reuters reports that the memo to the USDA's Agricultural Research Service unit was sent in error and has been amended, though it is unknown whether or not staff are permitted to freely release new findings. The ARS frequently publishes peer-reviewed scientific papers, many of which address research regarding climate change.