After there were reports that the Environmental Protection Agency had booted journalists from a national summit on water contaminants Tuesday morning and forcibly ejected an Associated Press reporter, the agency decided to allow reporters back into the D.C. summit Tuesday afternoon.
The agency’s tendency toward secrecy won out again Wednesday, though. According to Politico, reporters from its organization, as well as reporters from E&E News and Crown Publishing, were barred from entering the building on the second day of the event.
In a statement to Politico, an EPA spokesman said that the summit is not a federal advisory committee event, meaning it is not mandated to be open to the public. “The purpose of this event is for EPA’s state, tribal, and federal government partners and national organizations to share a range of individual perspectives on the Agency’s actions to date and path forward on [the chemicals],” he said in a statement.
According to the definition under the Federal Advisory Committee Act, a federal advisory committee includes “any committee, board, commission, council, conference, panel, task force, or other similar group” established by an agency to make recommendations to the federal government.
Tuesday’s portion of the summit involved federal and state officials, health groups, and industry representatives discussing the regulation of the contaminants. EPA administrator Scott Pruitt spoke at the summit. Wednesday’s portion of the event was limited to federal and state agencies and state regulators, according to Politico.
The chemicals being discussed at the summit are the subject of an EPA study that went unpublished after, it was later revealed, a White House official warned of a “potential public relations nightmare.” The study suggested that the pollutants, common in industrial products and on military bases, could be hazardous to human health at lower levels than previously thought.