Just three days before this week’s environment conference in Anchorage, the top Environmental Protection Agency official in Anchorage called the organizer with some news: The agency had been instructed by the White House to slash the number of EPA staffers who could attend.
“We’ve never had this happen before,” said Kurt Eilo, who has organized the Alaska Forum on the Environment for 19 years. The annual gathering brings together 1,800 people from Native communities, government agencies and the public to discuss climate-related issues, including melting permafrost and risks to villages from rising sea levels.
There had been 34 EPA staffers registered for the event at the downtown Dena’ina Center; in the end, only half were allowed to go. The agency says the late change — including scrapping the travel of some senior staff from Washington — was about saving money for American taxpayers.
The travel change is one more sign of how President Donald Trump is taking a different approach to energy and environment than his predecessor. Federal workers and environmentalists say they are unnerved by what’s been done so far: from deleted web pages on climate change to cuts in staffing at the office in the Department of Energy responsible for science research.
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