America First, Environment Last? Examining the EPA in the Trump Era

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July 1, 2013: Smoke rises from a coal burning power plant in Colstrip, Montana. President Trump's latest move to support coal mining is unlikely to turn around the industry's prospects immediately.
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President Donald Trump’s “America first” budget cuts about one-third or 31 percent of the funding the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) receives, even though Defense Secretary James Mattis believes climate change is a national security threat. In this special episode, we explore the future of the EPA in the Trump era. Here’s what you’ll find in today’s show:

  • President Richard Nixon established the EPA in 1970, but the agency has become increasingly politicized in the years since its creation, and it will see significant changes under new Administrator Scott Pruitt. Emily Holden, a reporter for the environmental news outlet E&E News, examines how the EPA is changing, and William Reilly, who served as the EPA administrator under President George H.W. Bush, looks back at the history of the agency and discusses his tenure at the EPA.
  • On the campaign trail, President Trump promised to both “drain the swamp” and make cuts to governmental agencies. Myron Ebell, who led President Trump’s environmental transition team, weighs in Administrator Pruitt’s vision for the agency, and what he plans to accomplish.
  • The town of Columbia Falls, Montana was recently designated a Superfund site by the EPA. For Montanans, the designation is a mixed bag: Clean up is important to locals, but many worry about having the federal government get involved in a local issue. Phil Mitchell, Flathead County Commissioner; Montana State Senator Dee BrownErin Sexton, a senior scientist with the University of Montana’s Flathead Lake Biological Station; and Stacey Schnebel, the former chairwoman of the Columbia Falls Chamber of Commerce, analyze the concerns facing the community.
  • What do those inside the EPA think of the changes being undertaken by the Trump Administration? For answers, we turn to Felicia Chase, a water enforcement researcher in Region 5, where's she's been since 2008; Ethan Shenkman, former deputy general counsel at the EPA; and Joe Arvai, a member of the Science Advisory Board since 2011.
  • With only 25 of the estimated 150 glaciers remaining in Montana’s Glacier National Park, the site has become a symbol of climate change on both the national and international level. But what role does the EPA have here, and in a state where so much of the economy depends on fossil fuels, how do locals feel about the inevitable melting? Todd Zwillich reports.

This episode is hosted by Todd Zwillich.