EPA pulls scientists out of climate change conference talk

The Environmental Protection Agency has canceled speaking appearances by three of its scientists set to speak at a Rhode Island conference Monday.

The New York Times first reported that the agency scientists, who were expected to address climate change during their talks to present a 500-page report, were removed from the program at the request of the EPA on Friday. An EPA official told Tom Borden, the program director for the conference, that the scientists would not be allowed to speak, according to the Times.

The EPA clarified in a statement that scientists would be present but not speak.

“EPA supports the Narragansett Bay Estuary, and just this month provided the program a $600,000 grant. EPA scientists are attending, they simply are not presenting; it is not an EPA conference,” an EPA spokesperson told CNN.

The EPA did not respond when asked by CNN for the reasoning behind not allowing the scientists to speak.

Scientists Autumn Oczkowski, Rose Martin and Emily Shumchenia were set to speak across different events at the State of the Narragansett Bay and Watershed program workshop in Providence, the Times reported.

Oczkowski was expected to address climate change among other issues affecting the bay in a keynote address, according to the Times. Martin and Shumchenia were expected to directly tackle the subject on a panel called “The Present and Future Biological Implications of Climate Change.”

Tom Borden, the program director for the Narragansett Bay Estuary Program, which hosted the workshop, told CNN that “EPA folks” were present at the conference Monday but didn’t speak during the program. He added that “only the EPA knows why” the scientists were not permitted to speak at the conference.

The speaking cancellations come alongside several changes at the EPA under the Trump administration. Under EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, the agency has moved to have a political appointee screen its grant solicitations, according to E&E News and The Washington Post. In addition, Pruitt’s schedules show a majority of his meetings have been with fossil fuel industry stakeholders, while 1% of his meetings have been with environmentalist or science groups.