Photo: Aaron Black-Schmidt

President Trump Approves Pipelines, “Freezes” EPA

Less than one week after Donald J. Trump became the 45th President of the United States, his new administration is instituting a “temporary media blackout” at the Environmental Protection Agency, haulting all contracts, grants, and business activities at the federal agency effective today.

The move is expected to have an immediate impact on EPA projects nationwide and leaves many questions about the future role of the EPA under this new administration.

Liz Perera, climate policy director for the Sierra Club, called the move “a major red flag for Americans.”

“EPA was created to ensure that all Americans can enjoy clean air to breathe, clean water to drink and have their health protected from environmental and climate threats,'' Perera said.

According to an email memo acquired by The Associated Press, the terms of the “media blackout” include a prohibition on any press releases, blog updates, or posts to the agency’s social media accounts. Interestingly, this is not the only federal agency to have been barred from external communications. Both the Agricultural and Interior departments received similar orders from the Trump administration in recent days.

''We're just trying to get a handle on everything and make sure what goes out reflects the priorities of the new administration,'' said Doug Ericksen, the communications director for Trump's transition team at EPA.

For those left wondering what exactly those priorities were, they would not have to wait long for an answer.

The president also signed a flurry of executive orders on Tuesday–pledging to swiftly move forward with construction of both the controversial Keystone XL pipeline and the Dakota Access Pipeline–prompting immediate outcry from both Native American and environmental advocacy groups.

“Trump’s executive order on #DAPL–violates the law and tribal treaties. We will be taking legal action,” Standing Rock Sioux tribe tweeted shortly after the signing.

However, these moves should not come as a surprise.

President Trump’s disdain for the EPA has been well-documented, with calls for dismantling the agency becoming a staple of his campaign trail rhetoric. In addition, his appointment of Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt–a man who has sued the EPA 14 times–to head the environmental agency has raised grave concerns among the environmental community.

When asked who would protect the environment during a 2015 interview, Trump famously stated: “We’ll be fine with the environment, we can leave a little bit, but you can’t destroy businesses.”

If these moves are any indication, it appears as though that notion will be put to the test.

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