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After A Legal Challenge, EPA Decided Not To Cancel Funding To A Pennsylvania Newspaper

After a political appointee took charge of EPA grants last summer, the agency cut short a six-year, $1.95 million grant to the Bay Journal. Now the agency has reversed course.

Posted on March 2, 2018, at 6:13 p.m. ET

Aaron P. Bernstein / Reuters

EPA head Scott Pruitt at a congressional hearing.

The Environmental Protection Agency is not canceling the remaining $1.25 million in funding to a Pennsylvania newspaper covering the Chesapeake Bay after all.

After political appointee John Konkus took charge of EPA grants last summer, the agency cut short a six-year, $1.95 million grant to the Bay Journal. The controversial decision sparked a public backlash, was publicly decried by members of Congress, and faced a legal challenge from the newspaper.

Trump’s EPA concluded its month-long review of the legal appeal Thursday, announcing it was reversing last summer’s decision to cancel the grant early. In its explanation for the new decision, however, the agency did not admit fault.

According to the decision document, the EPA official overseeing the case was prepared to render the grant’s cancellation “proper.” But, in a last minute twist, EPA management informed him “of another change in priorities after consideration of the Fiscal Year 2019 President’s budget request. … This renders the appeal moot.”

“We’re really happy [the EPA] recognized the contribution we’ve made for more than a quarter-century to inform the public about the Chesapeake Bay and the funding is going to come back,” Bay Journal editor Karl Blankenship told BuzzFeed News. “It’s been a big distraction for us,” he said about the funding changes.

The newspaper was supposed to get its third installment of grant funding, $325,000, on Feb. 1. Blankenship is not sure when it will be released to the paper.

“Today’s move by the EPA reverses a misguided decision to revoke funding for an institution that has helped contribute to the health and success of the Chesapeake Bay,” Sen. Chris Van Hollen, a Democrat from Maryland who questioned EPA head Scott Pruitt about the Bay Journal’s funding cut, said in a statement to BuzzFeed News.

“We made our concerns clear to EPA Director Pruitt, and I appreciate that he heard them.”

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