While the EPA is often portrayed as a massive bureaucracy, about half of its budget goes directly to other organizations through grants. While many of these are focused on cleanups and reducing environmental risks, the agency also funds scientific research into various health and environmental risks. The money for these research grants has historically been allocated based on a combination of scientific merit and environmental concerns.
All that started to change in August. That’s when the EPA issued a new policy dictating that all grant programs must be run past a political appointee from the EPA’s public affairs office. Now, a new report indicates that this PR specialist is cancelling individual grants.
The appointee is named John Konkus. He occupies the position of Deputy Associate Administrator for Public Affairs, which is a public relations position. Konkus has a bachelor’s degree in government and politics, and he appears to have no scientific background—the closest is having worked for former Congressman Sherwood Boehlert (R-N.Y.) back when Boehlert chaired the House Science Committee. Since then, Konkus worked for then-Lieutenant Governor Rick Scott in Florida, spent time at a political consulting firm, and then got involved with the Trump campaign.