Nonprofit, nonpartisan journalism. Supported by readers.

Donate
Topics

‘War on the EPA’ details Trump’s efforts to dismantle an agency

The Frontline film tracks the rise of Scott Pruitt from attorney general of Oklahoma (where he used his office to sue the EPA 14 times), to his appointment as the agency’s chief honcho.

Just as Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt announces the repeal of President Barack Obama’s signature policy to curb greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, the PBS documentary series Frontline will premiere a film tonight titled “War on the EPA.” The folks at Frontline were kind enough let me preview the film.

If you watch “War on the EPA,” you won’t be surprised to hear that it portrays President Donald Trump and his new administration as climate change deniers, friendly to the fossil fuel industry, and hostile to almost every major action the Environmental Protection Agency took during the Obama years. Trump has already announced his intention to withdraw the United States from the multilateral Paris Climate accord to combat global warming.

The film tracks the rise of Scott Pruitt from attorney general of Oklahoma (where he used his office to sue EPA 14 times and to combat regulation of the fossil fuel industry and received enormous support from the Koch brothers), to his appointment as EPA’s chief honcho, apparently tasked with undoing Obama-ism as it pertains to environmental issues and especially those affecting fossil fuel matters.

I guess I pretty much knew all that, but was nonetheless taken aback by an on-camera account given by Myron Ebell, whom Trump asked to lead the transition from the Obama to the Trump administrations.

Article continues after advertisement

Ebell is head of global warming and other international environmental policy matters for the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a libertarian advocacy group. According to his Wikipedia page, he is also “chairman of the Cooler Heads Coalition, a loose coalition formed in 1997 which presents itself as ‘focused on dispelling the myths of global warming by exposing flawed economic, scientific, and risk analysis.’ ” He is not a scientist but is a climate change denier.

All of that by way of saying that after Trump won the election, his transition team asked Ebell to take charge of the Obama-to-Trump transition at EPA, which led to the appointment of Pruitt. In the film, Ebell gives this account of the phone call offering him that position:

They said well, Mr. Trump believes that the federal government cannot go on the way it is. And I said “Well I agree with that.”

Mr. Trump believes it requires fundamental transformation.

And I said “I agree with that.”

And he thinks that the EPA is one of the obstacles to getting the economy going again in heartland America.

Well, I certainly agree with that.

Mr. Trump has even said that he wants to abolish the EPA.

And I said “I agree with that.”

Article continues after advertisement

And they said: “That’s why we’re asking you to head the transition team for the EPA.”

Ebell took the assignment. The rest is history, except for the parts that haven’t happened yet.

“War on the EPA” premieres locally tonight at 9 p.m. on TPT 2, with a second showing at 3 a.m. Thursday.