The EPA funded the York County-based newspaper for 27 years through Republican and Democratic administrations. In August 2017, the agency unexpectedly cut off the money. The decision was made two years into a six-year grant, after the EPA cited an unexplained “shift in priorities.”
The Bay Journal appealed the decision to the EPA, and got vocal support from Maryland’s two U.S. senators, Benjamin L. Cardin and Chris Van Hollen, both Democrats.
After the appeal was filed, emails surfaced in the press suggesting the decision to end the grant was politically motivated.
“It looks like they didn’t like some of the stories we had written about planned cutbacks by the Trump administration for Chesapeake Bay funding,” said Bay Journal editor Karl Blankenship.
Blankenship says two reporters from his eight-person staff left amid the uncertainty over the grant funding, which makes up about a third of the journal’s budget.
An EPA spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment Friday. In January, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said the decision to end the grant “should not have been made the way it was.”
In 2010, the Environmental Protection Agency imposed strict new pollution limits on state and local governments in the Chesapeake Bay watershed to sharply curb nitrogen, phosphorous and sediment by 2025.
The cleanup has been been a bipartisan priority for decades. Shortly after taking office, President Donald Trump proposed sharply cutting the EPA’s budget, including its Bay Cleanup Program. However, the cuts have not been implemented by Congress.