The Environmental Protection Agency is pushing back against claims from a Michigan Democrat who vehemently criticized the handling of an EPA-organized summit.
On May 22 and 23, the Environmental Protection Agency hosted a summit in Washington, D.C., regarding per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) — chemicals commonly found in drinking water and many household items. However, the summit attracted an avalanche of negative media coverage when numerous news outlets and congressional staffers were turned away at the door. The criticism came despite the EPA making it clear beforehand there would be limited seating and only a handful of news entities and other guests would be able to attend.
One such person, who had issue with the summit, was U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee, a Michigan Democrat representing his state’s 5th Congressional District. On the second day of the PFAS summit, Kildee took to Twitter to claim members of staff were unrightfully barred from entering.
My staff was not allowed to attend today’s @EPA #PFAS summit, and I represent communities affected by drinking water contamination. @EPAScottPruitt‘s lack of transparency and willingness to deny access to Members of Congress and the media is deeply troubling. https://t.co/TK6ojDQ77o
— Rep. Dan Kildee (@RepDanKildee) May 23, 2018
The public has a right to know what is happening inside their government. https://t.co/PgGiGN4jfO
— Rep. Dan Kildee (@RepDanKildee) May 24, 2018
Kildee did not stop with social media. The Michigan Democrat went on to send an official letter to the EPA Inspector General on May 24, doubling down on claims his staff was blocked from the meeting, urging the Inspector General to investigate the matter.
“[M]y congressional staff was blocked from attending portions of the EPA PFAS summit,” Kildee wrote. “I was never invited to attend. My office contacted the EPA’s Congressional Affairs Office to inquire about attending, and our office was initially told by the EPA that they were ‘optimistic’ that we could attend. However, the EPA subsequently would only allow my staff to attend certain portions of the summit, despite the public agenda for the summit inviting ‘federal partners and co-regulators.'”
The optics looked bad for the EPA, considering Kildee represents a town that recently suffered a water contamination crisis. However, the EPA released a response on Tuesday calling into question the congressman’s characterization of what exactly took place. (RELATED: Eyewitness Says AP Story About Reporter Being Roughed Up At EPA Event Is Overblown)
In a letter The Daily Caller News Foundation obtained, the EPA wrote that their office communicated with Kildee’s staff and made clear they were registered to attend the event on May 22. Officials from Kildee’s office, however, failed to show up and instead attempted to arrive the following day — a date they were not registered to attend.
“Staff from your office reached out to my staff on May 18, 2018, and requested to attend the PFAS summit,” EPA Associated Administrator Troy Lyons wrote. “My staff worked diligently to honor your staff’s request. Just a few hours after your staff’s May 18 email, my staff confirmed in an email that your staff was added to the invitee list for May 22 … I trust you understand our disappointment when we discovered that no one from your office attended the summit on May 22, particularly in light of the subsequent events on May 23.”
Lyons continued: “In our email communications with your office, EPA made it clear that the summit continued into May 23 but would be limited to federal agency and state representatives … Regardless of these details, a representative from your office arrived on May 23 with less than two hours before the entire event concluded. Your office subsequently proceeded to tell members of the media that the agency barred your staff from the summit, which mischaracterized the events that took place.”
Email exchanges, obtained by the DCNF, between the EPA and a Kildee staffer verify his office was notified they were to attend on May 22.
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