An Associated Press (AP) reporter says she was forcibly removed by security guards from an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) event on contaminants in drinking water after the agency banned a number of media outlets from covering the meeting.
Reporters from CNN, the AP and E&E News were among a group of journalists barred from attending a two-day-long Chemical Summit that kicked off at EPA headquarters Tuesday.
The EPA did grant a handful of publications (The Hill, Politico, The Wall Street Journal and CBS) access to the event to cover EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s opening remarks and the first section of the panel that addressed Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS), hazardous chemicals linked to cancer. Reporters covering the event were limited to only an hour of attendance.
“This morning’s PFAS Leadership Summit at @EPA headquarters is open to the press… just not to reporters from @EENewsUpdates, @AP or @CNN. We’ve all asked the agency’s press office why we’re being selectively shut out and have gotten no responses,” tweeted orbin Hair, a reporter for E&E News.
This morning’s PFAS Leadership Summit at @EPA headquarters is open to the press… just not to reporters from @EENewsUpdates, @AP or @CNN. We’ve all asked the agency’s press office why we’re being selectively shut out and have gotten no responses.
— Corbin Hiar (@CorbinHiar) May 22, 2018
AP reporter Ellen Knickmeyer tweeted that the group of reporters were turned away at the door.
“The @AP, @CNN and E&E all showed up to cover this @EPA meeting on widespread, dangerous contaminants in many drinking water systems around the country. We were all turned away at the door of the EPA building,” tweeted AP reporter, Ellen Knickmeyer.
The @AP, @CNN and E&E all showed up to cover this @EPA meeting on widespread, dangerous contaminants in many drinking water systems around the country. We were all turned away at the door of the EPA building. https://t.co/j8JthyiM3k
— Ellen Knickmeyer (@KnickmeyerEllen) May 22, 2018
The AP reported that guards blocked their reporter from the entrance to the event and grabbed the reporter by her shoulders to physically remove her from the building after she asked to speak to an EPA public affairs spokesperson.
An EPA spokesperson cited space constraints when asked why the reporter had been removed.
“This was simply an issue of the room reaching capacity, which reporters were aware of prior to the event. We were able to accommodate 10 news outlets and provided a livestream for those we could not accommodate,” EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox said in a statement.
Reporters attending the event noted that a handful of assigned reporter seats remained vacant by the time Pruitt began speaking, including one for a Wall Street Journal reporter who decided to watch the event via the livestream instead, reports The Hill.
The Hill reports:
A seat marked for Hearst Media was left open. Another publication was invited to the event but declined to send a reporter after learning that Pruitt would not be taking questions. CBS was the only major news outlet recording the event on video from the back of the room.
The meeting on Tuesday was significant due to the hot button topic of PFASs as debate rages between the EPA and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) over acceptable levels of the chemical in drinking water.
Reports last week indicated that the EPA is fearing a “public relations nightmare” following expected new recommendations from the Department of Health and Human Services that acceptable drinking water levels for PFAS are much lower than the EPA’s current standards.
ATSDR has not yet released its Minimal Risk Level suggestions for PFAS found in drinking water. Pruitt said Tuesday that the EPA is expected to get its own targeted list out by the fall. The chemical has been linked to thyroid disease and testicular cancer.