Report: Political aide signs off grant applications, awards at EPA

Is the Trump administration waging war on science?
Is the Trump administration waging war on science?

    JUST WATCHED

    Is the Trump administration waging war on science?

MUST WATCH

Is the Trump administration waging war on science? 03:39

Story highlights

  • The aide worked for Trump's campaign in Florida
  • Climate change is a term being reviewed

Washington (CNN)The Environmental Protection Agency has put a political aide in charge of reviewing grant funds that are distributed from the agency, according to a published report.

John Konkus, a longtime political operative from Florida who served as President Donald Trump's Leon County campaign chairman, is in charge of reviewing awards that are assigned by the agency, along with applications for grants before they're issued, The Washington Post reported Monday evening, citing "career and political employees."
The Post reported that according to career and political employees at the agency, Konkus told staff he is watching out for "the double C-word" -- meaning climate change.
    When asked about the Post report, EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox told CNN: "We're draining the swamp to ensure decisions about grants are in line with the agency's mission and policy priorities."
    CNN has not independently verified the Post report.
    EPA spokeswoman Liz Bowman told the Post that grant decisions "are to ensure funding is in line with the agency's mission and policy priorities," with the number of awards denied amounting to just 1% of those made since EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt took office.
    "We review grants to see if they are providing tangible results to the American people," she told the Post in an email.
    Konkus' official role is deputy associate administrator in the EPA's public affairs office. He publicizes the funding of grants and he serves more widely as an adviser on policy and management issues, according to the report.
    Several officials from the Barack Obama and George W. Bush administrations told the Post that it is unprecedented to have a public affairs officer reviewing grant applications and awards, which are for half of the EPA's $8 billion budget.
    "We didn't do a political screening on every grant, because many of them were based on science, and political appointees don't have that kind of background," former EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman, who served under Bush, told the Post.