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Reports emerged on Tuesday that President Donald Trump has ordered a gag rule on the Environmental Protection Agency, barring officials from social media or interaction with reporters.

The administration had previously ordered a temporary suspension of grants to the EPA, which is expected to have large ramifications on nationwide projects.

ProPublicaobtained an email exchange on Monday from an EPA contracting officer to a storm water management employee, which concluded:

Right now we are in a holding pattern. The new EPA administration has asked that all contract and grant awards be temporarily suspended, effective immediately. Until we receive further clarification, this includes task orders and work assignments.

The actions are being described as extraordinary, according to senior officials contacted by ProPublica:

One EPA employee aware of the freeze said he had never seen anything like it in nearly a decade with the agency. Hiring freezes happened, he said, but freezes on grants and contracts seemed extraordinary. The employee said the freeze appeared to be nationwide, and as of Monday night it was not clear for how long it would be in place.

The substance of the email exchange was confirmed by one senior EPA employee with over 20 years at the agency. An EPA lawyer also said that earlier communications had described such a freeze.

Other federal agencies such as the US Department of Agriculture and Health and Human Services have also been ordered to halt "any correspondence to public officials", while press releases and blog updates have also been banned.

MSNBC's Rachel Maddown described the EPA as "bound and gagged" and said the actions were prerequisites to a formal closure of the EPA, saying on Tuesday:

It is day four, and it is already happening.

Now we know, day four of the new administration, those people were not wrong to be freaked out. And they probably, in the interest of science, were not wrong to be downloading and trying to save data privately.

Because the data is disappearing.

The scientists are already being told they are not allowed to speak or publish. It is already happening, it is day four, and it is already happening.

Watch the video, below:

The Senate has yet to officially confirm President Trump's pick for the head of the EPA, Scott Pruitt.

A former Oklahoma attorney general, Mr Pruitt is a climate change denier who has repeatedly sued the EPA over its attempts to regulate pollution.

HT RawStory

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