The Environmental Protection Agency in the Early Trump Administration: Prelude to Regulatory Capture

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We explore and contextualize changes at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over the first 6 months of the Trump administration, arguing that its pro-business direction is enabling a form of regulatory capture. We draw on news articles, public documents, and a rapid response, multisited interview study of current and retired EPA employees to (1) document changes associated with the new administration, (2) contextualize and compare the current pro-business makeover with previous ones, and (3) publicly convey findings in a timely manner.The lengthy, combined experience of interviewees with previous Republican and Democratic administrations made them valuable analysts for assessing recent shifts at the Scott Pruitt-led EPA and the extent to which these shifts steer the EPA away from its stated mission to “protect human and environmental health.” Considering the extent of its pro-business leanings in the absence of mitigating power from the legislative branch, we conclude that its regulatory capture has become likely-more so than at similar moments in the agency’s 47-year history.The public and environmental health consequences of regulatory capture of the EPA will probably be severe and far-reaching.

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