Lawmakers, Environmentalists Concerned After EPA Stops Scientists From Discussing Report

Oct 24, 2017

Lawmakers and environmentalists are disappointed in and concerned about the federal Environmental Protection Agency's decision to stop three agency scientists from talking about their research on climate change. 

The scientists were scheduled to discuss a report about the health of Narragansett Bay and its watershed during a workshop Monday at Save the Bay in Providence. The study shows there have been great improvements in water quality but the effects of climate change are accelerating at a faster pace.

Outside Save the Bay before the workshop started, a small group protested the Trump Administration and its decision to cancel the scientists' talk. They held signs that said "Un-gag the EPA" and chanted the same tag line.

Inside, Rhode Island U.S. legislators said they were disappointed that the scientists wouldn't be speaking.

Democratic U.S. Senator Jack Reed accused the Trump Administration of trying to censor the report's findings because they don't align with his political agenda. He added lawmakers rely on this kind of research to set good public policies. 

"(Policymakers) can debate the issues, we can have different viewpoints, but we should all be able to objectively examine the data and look at the evidence," Reed said. 

Democratic U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse said it’s a shame the EPA brought politics into an event that was supposed to focus on knowledge.

“Science gives us the headlights to see what’s coming at us, and the more we do to the bay and the more that climate change ramps up, the faster things come at us and the better those headlights need to be,” Whitehouse said.

Democratic U.S. Congressman Jim Langevin agreed that science shouldn't be political.   

"This shouldn’t be about a Democratic or Republican issue," Langevin said. "This (climate science) is about protecting the planet, it’s about protecting not only the present but future generations…and we’re not going to turn around the current (climate change) trend without having an understanding of facts, and we get that through good scientific research." 

Curt Spalding, professor at the Institute at Brown for Environment and Society and former head of the EPA’s New England Office, attended the workshop. His concern is about the long-term effects of the Trump Administration’s position on climate change. 

“We need a lot of science to make the right choices about the next steps to protect what we’ve achieved but achieve more as we go forward,” Spalding said. 

The EPA has not said why it removed the scientists from the workshop.  

The scientists were part of a study completed by the federal Narragansett Bay Estuary Program in collaboration with 50 research partners in Rhode Island and Massachusetts.