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WASHINGTON — Scientists at the Environmental Protection Agency will be free to publicly discuss their work from now on, Scott Pruitt, the agency’s administrator, has assured lawmakers who criticized the E.P.A. for preventing employees from presenting findings about climate change.
In a letter Monday to Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Democrat of Rhode Island, Mr. Pruitt did not explain why the agency had canceled the presentations of two E.P.A. scientists and one consultant who were scheduled to speak in Providence in October about the health of the Narragansett Bay, nor did he address whether the agency had acted improperly.
“Procedures have been put in place to prevent such an occurrence in the future,” Mr. Pruitt wrote. He said he had assured staff members within the E.P.A.’s offices of research and development throughout the country that they had the authority to make decisions about participation in events.
“I am committed to holding up the E.P.A.’s scientific integrity policy, which ensures that the agency’s scientific work is of the highest quality, is presented openly and with integrity and is free from political interference,” Mr. Pruitt wrote.
Senator Whitehouse and 11 other Democrats from New England who challenged the E.P.A.’s move said they were pleased with Mr. Pruitt’s response but would remain vigilant.
“After the E.P.A.’s reckless and shortsighted decision to muzzle its own scientists from presenting to the Narragansett Bay Estuary Program, we appreciate Administrator Pruitt’s commitment never to let this happen again,’’ the lawmakers said in a statement issued Wednesday. “We will hold him to that commitment.”
The cancellation of the presentations in October infuriated some scientists. Researchers who worked on the event said they believed that major factors in the agency’s decision were that the canceled talks dealt with climate change and that one panel was entitled “The Present and Future Biological Implications of Climate Change.”
The E.P.A. under Mr. Pruitt has deleted most mentions of climate change from the agency’s website and is preparing to open a national debate to question decades of peer-reviewed science that has concluded that human activity is the dominant cause of rising greenhouse gas emissions.
Mr. Pruitt’s letter said the agency would continue to conduct research as outlined in E.P.A.’s four-year strategic plan. That blueprint does not mention climate change as an issue the agency plans to address in the coming years.