Former EPA Officials Release New Report: “The Trump Takeover of EPA: Throwing Environmental Protection in Reverse”

Download the report here.

Washington, D.C. – As President Trump orders federal agencies to cut regulations in the name of economic recovery from the pandemic, Save EPA, a Denver-based group of former EPA civil servants, released a report documenting the administration’s wide-ranging assault on environmental and public health protections. The key take-away: Trump has thrown environmental protection in reverse, squandering years of progress and undermining the federal government’s ability to protect Americans, now and in the future. 

With the presidential election approaching, Save EPA undertook a comprehensive review of Trump’s record on health and environmental protection to assist voters in assessing his performance in office. While the Trump rule rollbacks have been tracked, Save EPA looks at the totality of administration actions to undo current and cripple future efforts by EPA and related agencies to combat pollution, particularly climate-changing pollution. Written for the general public, the report connects the myriad steps the Trump administration has taken and explains their individual and cumulative impacts.

“When it comes to setting back public health and environmental protection, Trump has been relentlessly thorough,” said Ellen Kurlansky, one of the principal authors of the Save EPA report and a former senior analyst in EPA’s clean air program. “The list of steps he has taken is staggeringly long and the cumulative impacts are tremendously damaging. Polluters are the big winners, and people here and around the world are the big losers.”

The report focuses first on climate change and shows how Trump has taken a wide range of actions that actually escalate the climate crisis, even as Americans are increasingly subjected to its devasting impacts. The report details how Trump reversed course on important air, water, and land protections, hurting Americans, especially in low income and communities of color, in ways that increase their vulnerability to COVID-19. It also describes how Trump has weakened EPA as an institution, undercutting EPA’s capacity to consider the best science and conduct the best economic analysis, and making it less able to do its job now and in the future.

Lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic make Trump’s environmental record all the more harrowing. Failure to follow scientific facts, heed public health experts, and act early and decisively is costing the nation dearly. The same is true for climate change. Previous administrations made progress understanding, combating, and preparing for climate change, only to have Trump all but stamp out their efforts and rig government analysis to downplay its dangers. Trump has allowed the climate change problem to grow much larger and harder to solve, with vast potential consequences for lives and livelihoods, particularly for the most vulnerable among us.

Key findings of Save EPA’s report include:

Reversing progress on climate change: Trump has disavowed the Paris agreement to combat climate change, worked to dismantle or weaken EPA climate protections, and reversed federal efforts to consider climate change in government decision-making, help vulnerable communities, and inform the public. His administration has misrepresented climate science, skewed government analysis to understate climate change impacts, rigged electricity pricing to favor fossil fuels over renewables, and offered millions of acres of public land for fossil fuel extraction at bargain prices.

Rolling back pollution controls: Pollution of air, water, and land causes or worsens many diseases, including those that make people more vulnerable to COVID-19.   Children, the elderly, and people with pre-existing illnesses are particularly vulnerable to its worst effects, as are low income and minority populations who often live in or near highly polluted areas and have less access to medical care. After decades of largely bipartisan efforts to protect Americans from pollution, the Trump administration has relentlessly rolled back pollution controls and slowed, and even halted, enforcement of controls still on the books. 

Undermining science:  Protecting Americans from pollution means following the science. But the Trump administration is trying to restrict EPA’s use of high quality, highly relevant scientific studies, and has disbanded or changed the makeup and role of expert science advisory committees in ways that reduce objectivity and expertise and promote polluters’ perspectives. 

Devaluing public health and environmental protection: In rolling back rules, the Trump EPA has inflated the costs of controls and refused to count important benefits. It has changed the cost-benefit calculation for rolling back climate rules in a way that counts future generations as virtually worthless. These tactics make the benefits of environmental protections appear smaller relative to their cost. More broadly, the Trump administration has pursued a wide-ranging campaign to avoid or minimize environmental considerations in government decision-making. 

Cutting out the public: The Trump administration has inhibited or reduced public participation in several areas of environmental decision-making by EPA and other agencies, while maintaining opportunities for polluters or even granting them special status. 

Crippling EPA and putting industry insiders in charge: During Trump’s first 18 months in office, EPA lost on net more than 1,200 employees, including some of the agency’s most experienced personnel; this has left EPA’s workforce near 1987 levels. At the same time, Trump has stocked EPA with industry lobbyists, lawyers, and other representatives, some of whom have already been forced out for ethical lapses, and failed to fill many top jobs, avoiding the scrutiny that Senate confirmation entails.

Save EPA is an all-volunteer organization composed of former EPA career employees.  We have expertise in environmental science, law, economics, and policy.  We provide information and tools to help members of the public better understand and respond to Trump administration actions that threaten to undo or weaken important public health and environmental protections.  More about Save EPA and its work can be found at

Save EPA media contacts:

Ellen Kurlansky, 202-431-5719
Nancy and Jim Ketcham-Colwill, 703-217-5482
Carol Campbell, 720-893-0467