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

October 10, 2017

War on the EPA
Premiering on PBS and online:
Wednesday, October 11, 2017, at 10 p.m. ET / 9 p.m. CT | Twitter: @frontlinepbs #frontlinePBS
Instagram: @frontlinepbs  | YouTube:

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 combatting 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.

War on the EPA premieres Wednesday, October 11 at 10 p.m. EST/9 p.m. CST on PBS stations (check local listings) and online at

War on the EPA is 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.

FRONTLINE, U.S. television’s longest running investigative documentary series, explores the issues of our times through powerful storytelling. FRONTLINE has won every major journalism and broadcasting award, including 89 Emmy Awards and 20 Peabody Awards. Visit and follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Tumblr and Google+ to learn more. Founded in 1983, FRONTLINE is produced by WGBH Boston and is broadcast nationwide on PBS. Funding for FRONTLINE is provided through the support of PBS viewers and by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Major funding for FRONTLINE is provided by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Additional funding is provided by the Ford Foundation, the Park Foundation, The John and Helen Glessner Family Trust, the Heising-Simons Foundation, Wyncote Foundation, and the FRONTLINE Journalism Fund with major support from Jon and Jo Ann Hagler on behalf of the Jon L. Hagler Foundation.

Press Contacts | Patrice Taddonio,, 617.300.5375
Anne Husted,, 617.300.5312

In order to foster a civil and literate discussion that respects all participants, FRONTLINE has the following guidelines for commentary. By submitting comments here, you are consenting to these rules:

Readers' comments that include profanity, obscenity, personal attacks, harassment, or are defamatory, sexist, racist, violate a third party's right to privacy, or are otherwise inappropriate, will be removed. Entries that are unsigned or are "signed" by someone other than the actual author will be removed. We reserve the right to not post comments that are more than 400 words. We will take steps to block users who repeatedly violate our commenting rules, terms of use, or privacy policies. You are fully responsible for your comments.

blog comments powered by Disqus
Support Provided By Learn more