EPA blocks some media from Pruitt water contaminants summit

Joanna Estrada
May 22, 2018

"When the reporter asked to speak to an EPA public-affairs person, the security guards grabbed the reporter by the shoulders and shoved her forcibly out of the EPA building".

There probably isn't a more ethical and conservative (small "c") news organization in America than the Associated Press, so today's decision by the Environmental Protection Agency to deny the AP entry to a summit on water featuring EPA head Scott Pruitt is an escalation of the showdown between the administration and the free press.

A handful of other reporters from other news organizations, however, were allowed inside the event for Pruitt's opening remarks after having been previously invited by the agency the day before.

E&E News, which covers energy and environment issues, confirmed to the AP that reporter Corbin Hiar was kept out of the meeting. "We've all asked the agency's press office why we're being selectively shut out and have gotten no responses", he tweeted.

The summit was on a class of chemicals present in risky amounts in many water systems around the country. "We were all turned away at the door of the EPA building", she tweeted.

In response to the incident, the Sierra Club released a statement condemning the agency's treatment of the press.

- Corbin Hiar (@CorbinHiar) May 22, 2018The @AP, @CNN and E&E all showed up to cover this @EPA meeting on widespread, unsafe contaminants in many drinking water systems around the country.

When asked about the reporter's removal, an EPA spokesperson originally cited space constraints. He said the EPA was able to accommodate only 10 reporters and that it provided a livestream "for those we could not accommodate".

The meeting, convened in Washington by EPA chief Scott Pruitt, was open to invited media only, EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox said.

But reporters who were allowed to come to the event were also originally limited to only an hour of attendance. The entire summit spans two days.

In internal agency emails made public as part of a Freedom of Information lawsuit by the Sierra Club, political appointees frequently discuss plans to limit public questions at events with Pruitt, as well as limit information about where and when Pruitt will be making appearances, apparently in an attempt to limit media access to the administrator.

"In this meeting, stakeholders will be providing their individual perspectives on these critical issues". Wilcox arrived soon after and provided security with a list of news outlets and reporters, instructing them not to let anyone not on the list into the event.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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