WASHINGTON, Jan 24 (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration has asked the Environmental Protection Agency to temporarily halt all contracts, grants and interagency agreements pending a review, according to sources.
The White House sent a letter to the EPA’s Office of Administration and Resources Management ordering the freeze on Monday, an EPA staffer told Reuters. “Basically no money moving anywhere until they can take a look,” the staffer said, asking not to be named.
The EPA awards billions of dollars worth of grants and contracts every year to support programs around environmental testing, cleanups and research. It was unclear if the freeze would impact existing contracts, grants and agreements or just future ones.
Myron Ebell, who headed Trump’s EPA transition team until his inauguration last week, said he believed the move was related to Trump’s executive order on Monday temporarily halting all government hiring outside the military.
“A freeze at EPA on some other things like grants and contracts appears to have happened,” Ebell told Reuters in an email Tuesday morning.
The freeze was first reported by ProPublica on Monday and Ebell said it was similar to what has happened during previous presidential transitions.
Trump has promised to slash U.S. environmental regulation as a way to promote oil drilling and mining. An administration official told Reuters the president would sign two executive actions on Tuesday to advance construction of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines, a sharp reversal from the Obama administration.
Trump’s nominee to run the EPA, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, is awaiting Senate confirmation. Pruitt sued the EPA repeatedly as Oklahoma’s top prosecutor.
Trump also has drawn heavily from the energy industry lobby and pro-drilling think tanks to build its landing team for the EPA, according to a list of the newly introduced 10-member team seen by Reuters on Monday.
An EPA spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment. (Reporting by Valerie Volcovici and Richard Valdmanis; Editing by Bill Trott)