AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

Case Study

Bay Journal Media, Inc. v. Environmental Protection Agency

Reversing the Trump Administration’s Unlawful Grant Termination

We represented Bay Journal Media, Inc., publisher of the Bay Journal newspaper, in a successful administrative appeal of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) unlawful, unexplained, and unilateral termination of funding for an award-winning environmental newspaper. The filing came after reports that millions of dollars in competitively-awarded EPA grants were cancelled following interference by a political appointee. On March 1, 2018, EPA informed Bay Journal that the agency would restore the paper’s funding.

The Bay Journal had enjoyed longstanding local and Congressional support and received EPA funding since 1991. But in August 2017, following glowing reviews by the agency of its grant performance, the Chesapeake Bay outlet received a three-sentence email advising that EPA was terminating its $1.95 million grant “[d]ue to a shift in priorities.” Notably, the EPA also stated that the termination was not based on any failure by the Bay Journal to comply with its grant terms.

The Bay Journal publishes fact-based articles about the Chesapeake Bay, which have included coverage of the Trump administration’s approach to environmental issues affecting the Bay, such as articles noting concerns from scientists and environmentalists about the impact of Administration policies on offshore drilling, water regulation, and fish conservation. EPA’s decision to defund an environmental news organization without warning raised serious concerns about the Trump administration’s commitment to First Amendment freedoms and scientific reporting.

Democracy Forward filed the appeal on November 20, 2017, seeking to reinstate the Bay Journal’s grant in full. We also filed suit on Bay Journal’s behalf on November 13, 2017 to force EPA to comply with an open records request seeking to expose the decision-making process behind the grant termination. Faced with multiple legal actions, as well as public pressure from Maryland’s senators, EPA reversed course in March, restoring funding for our client so that they may continue to pursue their crucial work.

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