The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has reversed course on a decision to rescind years’ worth of future funding for a nonprofit publication that’s covered the Chesapeake Bay restoration effort for nearly three decades.
The Chesapeake Bay Journal is now set to once again receive the remainder of a six-year EPA grant awarded in January 2016. The agency suddenly decided to cut the funding last August, citing a “shift in priorities.” But according to an article in the paper published late last week, it has now decided to let the paper keep its promised funding.
“The outpouring of support we have received over the last six months from across the political spectrum speaks to the credibility of our work,” editor Karl Blankenship said in the article. “We look forward to being able to return our full attention to doing just that — covering the issues that affect the Chesapeake and its resources.”
Many pushed back against the EPA’s call after news broke of the rescinded grant last summer, including the tri-state Chesapeake Bay Commission, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and the publication’s thousands of readers.
According to the Bay Journal, D.C.-based nonprofit Democracy Forward and private law firm Arnold and Porter helped them to appeal the EPA’s decision. They reportedly argued a Trump administration appointee, Deputy Associate Administrator of EPA Public Affairs John Konkus, had made the decision for political reasons, citing internal EPA documents in which the bureaucrat said “the American public doesn’t trust the press,” among other reasons.
Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen also applied pressure, questioning EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt about the money during a Jan. 30 meeting.
“Today’s move by the EPA reverses a misguided decision to revoke funding for an institution that has helped contribute to the health and success of the Chesapeake Bay,” Van Hollen said in a statement last Thursday. “We made our concerns clear to EPA Director Pruitt, and I appreciate that he heard them.”
Most immediately, the publication will be getting $325,000 that it was supposed to receive last month—equal to about a third of its annual budget—and is set to continue receiving grants through 2021. The EPA previously awarded the Bay Journal annual grants of $327,000 from 2011 to 2014, according to agency records.
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