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Sep 14, 2019

Scuttling science

Co-produced with PRX Logo

Today’s show looks at the Trump administration’s pattern of pushing expert scientists out of policy discussions. 

Our first story examines federal advisory committees – expert panels that advise the federal government on everything from air pollution to clean drinking water. President Donald Trump signed an executive order that will eliminate hundreds of them and is removing scientists from those that remain. Reveal’s Elizabeth Shogren travels to Capitol Hill to interview an environmental chemist who says the administration’s actions are an assault on science itself. Then host Al Letson interviews Sacoby Wilson, an environmental health scientist who helps poor communities of color fight against pollution. He serves on an Environmental Protection Agency advisory panel that could be eliminated by Trump’s executive order. 

Our next story looks at the Trump administration’s rollback of Obama-era fuel efficiency and emissions standards for cars. Jeff Alson spent more than 40 years at the EPA and tells the story about how the Trump administration justified those rollbacks based on scientific modeling he and many other experts say doesn’t make sense.

Finally, Letson talks to Mandy Gunasekara, who helped engineer the Trump administration’s withdrawal from the Paris climate accord and the Clean Power Plan. The former senior policy adviser at the EPA defends the Trump administration’s deregulatory approach to the environment, adding that warnings about the dangers of climate change are exaggerated.

Dig Deeper

  • Read: National parks report on climate change finally released, uncensored
  • Read: Scientist who resisted censorship of climate report lost her job
  • Read: Killing migratory birds, even unintentionally, has been a crime for decades. Not anymore
  • Read: Top Interior officials ordered parks to end science policy, emails show 
  • Listen: Silencing science
  • Listen: Behind Trump’s energy dominance


This week’s show was produced by Elizabeth Shogren and Najib Aminy and edited by Brett Myers and Taki Telonidis. Reported by Elizabeth Shogren. 

Our production manager is Mwende Hinojosa. Original score and sound design by Jim Briggs and Fernando Arruda, who had help from Amy Mostafa and Laurel Hennen Vigil

Support for Reveal is provided by the Reva and David Logan Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Jonathan Logan Family Foundation, the Ford Found, the Heising-Simons Foundation, Democracy Fund, and the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation.