In October 2017, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) cancelled talks by three agency scientists who were scheduled to discuss climate change at a conference on the state of the Narragansett Bay and Watershed program in Providence, Rhode Island. The New York Times reported that many scientists were surprised by EPA’s last-minute cancellation, particularly since the agency helps to fund the Narragansett Bay Estuary Program, which hosts the conference. The scientists whose talks were cancelled contributed substantial material to a 400-page report which was issued in conjunction with the conference. EPA provided no explanation for the cancellation.
EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has since claimed that “[p]rocedures have been put in place to prevent” similar cancellations in the future. He assured staff that he is “committed to holding up the EPA’s scientific integrity policy, which ensures that the agency’s scientific work is of the highest quality, is presented openly and with integrity and is free from political interference.”
On December 8, 2017, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) filed a Freedom of Information Act request with EPA seeking, among other things, documents relating to the procedures referred by Administrator Pruitt. After EPA failed to respond to the request, on February 6, 2018, PEER filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.