US EPA prevents three news organizations from attending conference on water contaminants

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MAY 22, 2018

In this May 16, 2018 photo, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt appears before a Senate Appropriations subcommittee on the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies on budget on Capitol Hill in Washington. – Andrew Harnik, AP

The Environmental Protection Agency kept three news organizations from attending a national summit on harmful water contaminants on Tuesday morning, with the agency insisting it did so because the room was full.

The Associated Press, CNN and E&E News were prevented from attending the first half of the meeting. Politico said its reporter had been allowed into the event, but would be asked to leave for the afternoon.

Following Tuesday morning’s reports, EPA announced that the second half of the day would be open to press.

AP reported that security guards grabbed its reporter by the shoulders and “forcibly” shoved her out of the EPA building.

“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,” AP Executive Editor Sally Buzbee said in a statement. “It is particularly distressing that any journalist trying to cover an event in the public interest would be forcibly removed.

CNN said in a statement that it had been turned away from covering the summit.

“While several news organizations were permitted, the EPA selectively excluded CNN and other media outlets,” it said. “We understand the importance of an open and free press and we hope the EPA does, too.”

E&E, an environment and energy-focused news site, said on Twitter that its own reporter had also been prevented from attending. E&E reported the event was open to the press, but not to reporters from the barred organizations.

EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox told USA TODAY that the room had reached capacity in the morning, “which reporters were aware of prior to the event.”

“We were able to accommodate 10 reporters, provided a livestream for those we could not accommodate and were unaware of the individual situation that has been reported,” Wilcox said in an email.

Wilcox later said that the second half of the summit would be open to press and emphasized that the first part of the day had been live streamed.

EPA announced the conference in March, saying it was convening the summit to bring together stakeholders to discuss man-made chemicals known as Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS). The chemicals are used to to make products that are stain-resistant, waterproof or nonstick, according to EPA.

“EPA’s leadership summit will bring together stakeholders from across the country to build on the steps we are already taking and to identify immediate actions to protect public health,” EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said at the time.


Courtesy/Source: USA Today

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