The week began with an update (a blog post) regarding the decision of the Environmental Protection Agency to hold 'a conference' to explore the dangers of PerFluoroOctanoic Acid (PFOA) and PerFluoroOctaneSulfonic Acide (PFOS). This conference was in response to the breaking news last week that the White House was suppressing a health report by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) which was about to be released regarding the safety of the chemicals above. The levels of the PerFluoroAlkyl compounds which were found in various geographical areas were disturbing as uncovered by Politico news. Below is the disturbing update regarding the conference at the EPA -- which began with quite a hiccup to say the least -- or was it a hiccup?
Day 1 of PFAS Conference at EPA
As I just stated, the two day conference which was held at the EPA started roughly to say the least. According to early reports by 'Politico Energy' the following disturbing event occurred at the beginning of the conference:
MAKE SOME ROOM — PFAS SUMMIT ENTERS DAY 2: It's the second and final day of EPA's summit on dangerous chemicals cropping up in drinking water supplies around the country. Deputy Administrator Andrew Wheeler will deliver opening remarks, but the rest of today's agenda is pretty vague, mostly listing "open discussions" among the state regulators, federal officials and other participants.EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt announced Tuesday that he would take the first step toward regulating PFOA and PFOS. Today's proceedings will be closed to the press, an agency spokesman tells ME. EPA initially tried to bar reporters from most of Tuesday's proceedings, before reversing itself a few hours later, but the outcry over that move overshadowed much of the event (more on that below).'NOBODY EVER ASKED US': Ahead of today's meeting, Pro's Annie Snider and Emily Holden confirmed that a controversial — and still unreleased — HHS chemical safety assessment will find that the contaminants can be dangerous at much lower exposures than EPA has previously said were safe. "Nobody ever asked us to change the numbers," Patrick Breysse, the head of the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry within HHS, told POLITICO. Breysse, who worked on the study, said the agencies involved were "getting close to finalizing it in January," but paused its release to come up with a better communications strategy to describe its findings. At the time, as POLITICO reported last week, a White House official worried of a "public relations nightmare" if the study were made public and asked EPA to intervene. While speaking on a panel at EPA's summit Tuesday, Breysse said the minimum risk levels reported last week for PFOA, PFOS and two other similar chemicals will remain the same when the assessment is released "soon."Following up: Republican Sen. Shelley Moore Capito told reporters she is "not totally pleased" with EPA's response to the blocked release of a health study on a nationwide water-contamination crisis and would be following up with agency later this week after a national summit on the issue. "I think the health study that HHS put forward needs to be released," she said. "I want to have the full information and I want to find out what kind of levels are acceptable and then remediate the problems." And does she think Pruitt can adequately respond to her concerns? "Time will tell, honestly," she said.— Separately, Sen. Tom Udall demanded to know why EPA tried to bar reporters from Tuesday's session — a decision that was eventually reversed a few hours later. Udall sent a letter to Administrator Scott Pruitt to express concern over EPA's "disturbing treatment" of journalists. "This intimidation of journalists seeking to cover a federal official presiding over important policy-making is un-American and unacceptable," Udall wrote, calling on Pruitt to apologize to reporters.But EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox defended the agency in a statement, noting an Associated Press reporter who had been physically removed from EPA headquarters, "showed up" after being told ahead of time the event was at capacity. "When we were made aware of the incident, we displaced stakeholders to the overflow room who flew to Washington for this meeting so that every member of the press could have a seat," he said.
Which was after the evening reporting by news agencies which resulted in a tweet by Senator Tom Udall shown below:
Here is the 6 and 1/2 minute video below from CNN:
Wow. Read more about the event (barring of news) from two additional news sources -- Politico and Reason Blog. According to reporting on the website 'Reason' the conference was proposed based on chemical levels reported earlier by Politico as shown below:
The Summit is being held on the heels of the revelation in Politico that the EPA is apparently suppressing a new report on the safety of PFAS from the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. That report suggested that the EPA's safe level of exposure at 70 parts per trillion is about six times too high. Most of the concerns about exposure to PFAS are based on a large number of epidemiological studies that detect fairly subtle health effects. Subtle, however, does not mean no effects.
Wow. That was only on the first day of the conference.
Day 2 of PFAS Conference at EPA
After the press being thrown out of the EPA hosted conference on the first day, the EPA took a few heavy hits from congressional leaders and the press -- and rightfully so. One would think that the possibility of throwing the press out of the conference on the second day would be not possible. But, leave it to the Pruitt Administration to have the gull to attempt the ejection of the free press from the conference again as reported by Politico:
EPA staff Wednesday morning barred POLITICO and reporters from at least two other publications from entering a national summit on toxic chemicals, a day after a partial media blackout at the same event brought criticism from congressional Democrats and a pledge by the White House to investigate the incident.The agency on Tuesday had allowed a select group of reporters to cover the first hour of the summit's introductory remarks, including comments by Administrator Scott Pruitt, but then escorted press out. EPA reversed its decision to ban media after news coverage of the policy and reports from the Associated Press that one of its journalists was forcibly ejected from the building by a security guard. Reporters were invited back for Tuesday afternoon.But on Wednesday, the agency again said no reporters would be allowed to attend.The event, where attendees are discussing whether and how to regulate a class of chemicals linked to immune disorders and certain cancers, included federal and state officials, health groups and industry interests on Tuesday. On Wednesday, it is limited to the agencies that handle chemical oversight and state regulators, according to an EPA statement.
This was such an outrageous action that Politico's Editor even made a statement on behalf of the press about the restriction of access to the conference:
"The summit was focused on an important public health crisis that has affected drinking water supplies across the country, and chemicals that are present in the bloodstreams of nearly all Americans," she said. "We believe it is important that the news media have access to the entirety of this discussion to keep the public informed with fact-driven, accountability coverage of this important issue — we would much rather be writing about the agency's efforts to address this health problem than about reporters being excluded."
Even more congressional leaders took to their twitter accounts. Senator Tom Carper of the Environmental and Public Works Committee posted on twitter:
"I can’t believe I have to say this two days in a row, but @EPA works for the American people," Carper wrote. "Unfortunately, it’s clear that this EPA is more concerned with protecting the EPA chemical summit from the public than it is with protecting the public from harmful chemicals."
I am really amazed at the obvious lack of understanding of the current Administration that the government works for the people of the United States. Their actions are funded by tax-payer money. The actions of the EPA over the last couple of days have called on the Society of Environmental Journalists to take action and send a letter to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt which is shown below:
May 23, 2018Scott Pruitt, AdministratorU.S. Environmental Protection AgencyMail Code: 1101AWilliam Jefferson Clinton Building1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, N. W.Washington, DC 20460via e-mail: Pruitt.scott@Epa.govDear Administrator Pruitt:The Society of Environmental Journalists strenuously objects to the Environmental Protection Agency’s selective barring of news reporters from your “National Leadership Summit” on per and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in drinking water, and to the EPA physically forcing an Associated Press reporter from the premises.It beggars understanding that the EPA would prevent any reporters from covering a topic of such intense nationwide interest and concern. But these are just the latest additions to your pattern of antagonism toward the press, and disregard for the public’s right to know what EPA is or is not doing to protect their health and the environment.This meeting, organized well in advance to gather input on a critical public health policy initiative, as a matter of course should have admitted news reporters in order to inform the public about what occurred. But as recently as a couple weeks ago, your staff was informing reporters that there would be no room for the press at this invitation-only event, because there was not enough space in the room selected for it.This is patently ridiculous. Surely, larger rooms were available at the EPA headquarters or in a nearby federal building or hotel.Evidently your staff relented at some point on May 22 and agreed to admit reporters for some news organizations. But not all: The Associated Press, CNN and E&E News, all highly respected news outlets serving enormous national audiences, were turned away at the door.A female AP reporter has recounted that when, in response to being barred, she asked to speak with a public affairs staffer, guards instead laid hands on her and removed her from the building by force. This is completely unacceptable.The livestream of the May 22 event provided by EPA - which has been offered as some sort of alternative to on-the-scene coverage - turned out to be highly selective as well, with most of the summit’s morning session held without being broadcast online.Finally, though you allowed press coverage the afternoon of the summit’s first day, your agency once again excluded at least some reporters on the session’s second day, May 23.While informing the public via news media is just good policy, holding the meeting open to the public is also legally required under the Federal Advisory Committee Act (5 USC § 1-16) and the Government in the Sunshine Act (5 U.S.C. §552b). According to your own agency’s press release, the summit included representatives from more than 40 states, tribes and territories, 20 federal agencies, congressional staff, industry groups and non-governmental organizations, and the agency intends to use information from the summit to help it develop a management plan. There is no justification for secrecy here.On behalf of SEJ’s 1,400 members and all other journalists covering the EPA, we urge you to:• Repudiate this hostile approach to dealing with the press and public.• Consistently open up important meetings, announcements and events to the public and press.• Never discriminate against a news outlet based on the content or editorial slant of its coverage.• Make arrangements to accommodate rather than restrict access by the press and public — and to answer their questions.• Withdraw your objections to the publication by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry of a draft assessment of water contamination by these chemicals. According to news reports, that study is still being withheld from the public.Your failure to release this report, along with the difficulties inflicted on reporters trying to cover the summit, inhibit public understanding of how the EPA is regulating water quality and constitutes an abuse of the free press and the public’s right to know. We emphatically urge you to end these practices immediately.
The behavior described (the actions of the EPA officials toward the press) are unprofessional and violate unwritten rules and regulations within the government. Since when does any EPA official have the right to handle another personal in a physical capacity. The EPA official could be brought up on charges of assault. At the very least, the EPA official should have called a security official. But the above removal of a person in the press are just another reminder that this administration believes that they exist outside or above the law -- which is very unfortunate.
I would hope that after the unfortunate events, the nation can move on and learn from the events of the past. The current Administration at the EPA needs a strict reminder from congress regarding the behavior toward the public. Each public official should remember that ultimately the tax-payer is deciding their course in the future. Based on the actions over the last few days, the EPA seems to have been taken over and funded exclusively by the Private sector.
The blatant disregard for the public should make any citizen sick to their stomach. After all, the fall-out of the decisions being discussed and made result in resources which we need for every day living. No person should have to drink or be exposed to contaminated water just because the federal regulating agency (i.e. EPA) is unwilling to do their job. Further more, disease needs not be spread due to a lack enforcement on government, state, and local facilities.
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