The Trump administration has instituted a media blackout for the Environmental Protection Agency, banning press releases and social media posts on official agency accounts, a source told Fox News.
The prohibitions came to light as the agency moved to delay implementation of at least 30 environmental rules finalized in the closing months of President Obama’s term, a potential first step to seeking to kill the regulations.
Staffers in EPA’s public affairs office are instructed to forward all inquiries from reporters to the Office of Administration and Resources Management.
"Not the most inspiring time at EPA right now but we're fighters,” the EPA staffer, who would only speak on condition of anonymity said.
The source, who also has direct knowledge of agency contracts and grants, confirmed that the agency has been asked to temporarily halt all contracts and grants pending review.
“Yes to freeze on new contracts and grants and no new funding on existing ones. There will supposedly be exceptions moving forward but unclear at this point,” the source said.
The Trump administration has also ordered what it called a temporary suspension of all new business activities at the department, including issuing task orders or work assignments to EPA contractors. The orders were expected to have a significant and immediate impact on EPA activities nationwide.
EPA contracts with outside vendors for a wide array of services, from engineering and research science to janitorial supplies.
The Washington Post reported Monday that an email was sent to employees of the Office of Acquisition Management from the incoming EPA administration to temporarily suspend “all contract and grant awards.” The email was reportedly sent within hours of Trump’s inauguration ceremony.
Competitive Enterprise Institute director Myron Ebell, who oversaw the EPA transition for the Trump administration, told ProPublica that the move isn’t unprecedented.
“They’re trying to freeze things to make sure nothing happens they don’t want to have happen, so any regulations going forward, contracts, grants, hires, they want to make sure to look at them first. This may be a little wider than some previous administrations, but it’s very similar to what others have done.”
However, one employee told the publication that he couldn’t recall a similar event happening in 10 years with the agency.
Similar orders barring external communications have been issued in recent days by the Trump administration at other federal agencies, including the departments of Transportation and Agriculture.
Staffers in EPA's public affairs office are instructed to forward all inquiries from reporters to the Office of Administration and Resources Management.
"Incoming media requests will be carefully screened," one directive said. "Only send out critical messages, as messages can be shared broadly and end up in the press."
A review of EPA websites and social media accounts, which typically include numerous new posts each day, showed no new activity since Friday.
White House spokesman Sean Spicer said Tuesday he had no specific information on the blackout.
"I don't think it's any surprise that when there's an administration turnover, that we're going to review the policies," Spicer said.
Doug Ericksen, the communications director for Trump's transition team at EPA, said he expects the communications ban to be lifted by the end of this week.
"We're just trying to get a handle on everything and make sure what goes out reflects the priorities of the new administration," Ericksen said.
Fox News’ Serafin Gomez and the Associated Press contributed to this report.