The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has reversed its controversial decision to cut off grant funding for a small newspaper that covers the Chesapeake Bay.
Kerry Neal, deputy director of the EPA’s Office of Grants and Debarment, told the Bay Journal’s attorneys Thursday that agency management had instructed that the grant be restored.
John Konkus, a political appointee in the EPA’s public affairs office, had in August ordered that the $325,000 annual grant be cut off, as part of a wide-ranging Trump administration review of EPA grants.
The Bay Journal, a nonprofit, relies on its EPA grant for about a third of its funding. It was only a year into the five-year grant.
The former head of the EPA’s Chesapeake Bay Program told E&E News that Konkus’s decision was political, based in part on his perception of public distrust in media and the Bay Journal’s negative coverage of Trump administration decisions.
The Bay Journal had appealed Konkus’s decision.
Maryland’s Senate delegation cheered the Thursday reversal.
“The Bay Journal is a unique, highly trusted publication that serves an essential function in the Chesapeake Bay restoration effort. While I do not believe its funding should ever have been threatened, I appreciate the EPA’s willingness to re-evaluate its decision and correct its course,” said Sen. Ben Cardin (D).
“Today’s move by the EPA reverses a misguided decision to revoke funding for an institution that has helped contribute to the health and success of the Chesapeake Bay,” said Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D).
The Bay Journal’s coverage focuses on the environment of the Chesapeake Bay and its ongoing cleanup, a program overseen by the EPA but that the Trump administration wants to cut dramatically.
EPA head Scott Pruitt told senators in January that the agency was considering restoring funding. He said he did not know about the decision to cut off the grant until after it had been made.
The Washington Post first reported on the restoration news.