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FRONTLINE: War On The EPA

Airs Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2017 at 10 p.m. on KPBS TV

Photo of a factory. FRONTLINE’s “War On The EPA” examines how Scott Pruitt we...

Credit: Courtesy of REUTERS/ Christopher Aluka Berry

Above: Photo of a factory. FRONTLINE’s “War On The EPA” examines how Scott Pruitt went from fighting the EPA to running the agency and rolling back years of policy. The film is an investigation into the conservative political forces and causes, like climate change skepticism, that propelled Pruitt’s takeover of the EPA.

As the Clean Power Plan Is Rolled Back, FRONTLINE Investigates How the War on the EPA Was Waged

The Trump administration on Monday announced that it would formally repeal President Obama’s signature effort in the fight against climate change: the Clean Power Plan.

On Wednesday, in the new documentary, "War On The EPA," FRONTLINE tells the inside story of how this major reversal and other environmental policy rollbacks happened; how President Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator, Scott Pruitt, went from fighting the federal agency to running it; and how the anti-regulatory and anti-climate change science movements in America reached this moment of triumph.

“It was eight years of pure hell under the Democrat party and Obama,” Bob Murray, CEO of the largest privately owned coal company in the U.S., tells FRONTLINE. “But we won! It’s a wonderful victory.”

This timely documentary draws on access to key players involved in the issue, including Murray; Myron Ebell, the leader of Trump’s EPA transition team; former EPA administrator Gina McCarthy; and, in her first televised interview, Betsy Southerland, the highest-ranking former EPA staffer to work under Pruitt and then speak on television with criticisms of him.

“In working for both Bushes and for Clinton and Obama, I can say that no previous administration has done what the Trump administration is doing at EPA,” Southerland tells FRONTLINE in the exclusive interview. “There is a clear and present danger to public health and safety in this country.”

"War On The EPA" explores how Scott Pruitt, a former state senator and minor league baseball team owner, came to political prominence first in Oklahoma and then in Washington, D.C. by pledging to fight federal environmental regulations aimed at protecting public health, promoting clean energy development, and slowing climate change.

The film shows how he earned a reputation as a defender of the oil and gas industries — suing the Obama EPA 14 times.

The documentary also traces how the fossil fuel industry methodically fought back against Obama-era regulations with the help of a “strike force” of state attorneys general, led by Pruitt, and it shows how an anti-EPA advertising blitz downplayed the threat of climate change and hammered home the message: Your jobs are under attack, and the EPA is to blame.

In addition to telling the story of how combating perceived federal overreach by the EPA became a popular conservative cause, "War On The EPA" unpacks the events that led up to the Trump administration’s withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement, and ultimately to this week’s action by Trump and Pruitt to repeal the Clean Power Plan.

It’s a gripping, must-watch exploration of how we reached this point.

FRONTLINE: War On The EPA: Preview

How did Scott Pruitt go from fighting the EPA to running the agency and rolling back years of policy? With access to key players on all sides of the issue — and with Pruitt now leading the federal agency he sued 14 times as Oklahoma’s attorney general — "War On The EPA" is an inside look at the triumphant ascent of the anti-regulatory movement in America. Coming to FRONTLINE Oct. 11, 2017.

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CREDITS:

A FRONTLINE production with Left/Right Docs. The producers are James Jacoby and Anya Bourg. The writer and director is James Jacoby. The senior producer is Frank Koughan. The executive producers for Left/Right Docs are Ken Druckerman and Banks Tarver. The executive producer for FRONTLINE is Raney Aronson-Rath.

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