For the past two days, the EPA has held a national summit on water contaminants. And for the same period of time, they’ve been barring some media outlets from attending. Meanwhile, they’ve allowed other members of the public, including state environmental agencies, tribes and the chemical industry, as well as environmentalists. But the press has been persona non grata; so much so that one AP reporter — Ellen Knickmeyer — was physically removed from the building. According to EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox, “She was not invited.”
Some media were allowed in the meetings on Tuesday, with the EPA having seats reserved for Politico, the Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Bloomberg News, the Daily Caller, the Hill, MLive and NJ Advance Media. The thing all the barred outlets have in common is recent negative reports on the EPA.
News organizations have decried the ban.
AP’s response called the barrings “alarming.”
“The Environmental Protection Agency’s selective barring of news organizations, including the AP, from covering today’s meeting is alarming and a direct threat to the public’s right to know about what is happening inside their government,” said AP Executive Editor Sally Buzbee.
CNN hoped the EPA understood the importance of a free press:
CNN said in a statement that “we understand the importance of an open and free press and we hope the EPA does, too.”
Senator Tom Udall called for Pruitt to apologize:
Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., called on Pruitt to apologize. “This intimidation of journalists seeking to cover a federal official presiding over important policy-making is un-American and unacceptable,” he said.
After the outcry yesterday, Knickmeyer and other barred journalists were allowed inside for the afternoon session. But today, the EPA reversed themselves once more and denied reporters access. Peter Grevatt, director of EPA’s Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water said in a statement, “Both state and federal officials had the expectation that the second day of the Summit would be a government-to-government discussion between federal and state co-regulators who are working together to address this important issue.”
Among the media outlets barred from attending yesterday and today: AP, CNN, E&E (a news service for professionals in energy and environment-related fields), and Crown Publishing.