The person who makes the final decision on grant funding at the US Environmental Protection Agency agency is a political operative who doesn’t want to see “the double C-word”—climate change—in grant applications, according to EPA staff who spoke with the Washington Post.
John Konkus is former aide to then-candidate Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. Now, his official role is in the EPA’s public affairs office, where he reviews each grant the EPA gives out, despite little environmental policy background. According to the Post, EPA staffers say that Konkus “repeatedly has instructed grant officers to eliminate references to the [climate change] in solicitations.”
Former EPA officials who served under presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush called the move unusual.
“We didn’t do a political screening on every grant, because many of them were based on science, and political appointees don’t have that kind of background,” former EPA administrator Christine Todd Whitman, who served under Bush, told the Washington Post.
The report comes after a scientist from Northeastern University posted an email to Facebook in which a US Department of Energy staffer asked her to cut mentions of “climate change” and “global warming” from her grant application. (The Department of Energy denied having a systematic ban on “climate change,” but did not specifically deny or confirm the validity of the email). Employees at the US Department of Agriculture have also been asked to avoid terms including “climate change” going forward, and replace them with less-specific terminology like “weather extremes.”