Amy Cheng

After Environmental Protection Agency scientists concluded that chlorpyrifos, a widely used agricultural pesticide, is harmful to human health, Dow Chemical, the pesticide’s manufacturer, petitioned the EPA to reverse its position. The EPA recently decided against banning Chlorpyrifos.

Yesterday afternoon, two-time Pulitzer Prize winning New York Times investigative reporter Eric Lipton highlighted that incident and other such questionable behavior by the EPA under the Trump administration at a talk in Kroon Hall. The talk, which attracted about 50 people, was funded by the Poynter Fellowship in Journalism.

“One of the most consequential things that’s going on in the Trump administration, even though we tend to be more fixated on the Russia investigation, is the rollback of federal regulations that adversely impact individuals’ health and quality of life,” Lipton said in an interview. “We need to be more focused on [the EPA’s] recent regulatory rollbacks.”

Over the past year, Lipton has traced and written about the Trump administration’s efforts to reduce federal environmental regulations and reverse policies that protect more than 700 million acres of national parks and federal lands.

Lipton explained that past efforts to hinder the EPA came from outside the agency, but now the agency’s leaders themselves seem not to believe in its mission.

“This mobilization against federal regulations is now being manifest through the federal government itself,” Lipton told the News. “The industry was building to block any regulations that would limit energy production … and what we’re seeing now is that they control the regulatory policy and are moving to roll back impediments to energy production.”

Lipton gave the example of Murray Energy, a mining company, sending a $1 million dollar check to a super PAC supporting President Donald Trump after the Trump administration started the rollback of certain regulations. Lipton also mentioned that major auto companies recently asked the EPA to revise their emissions standards. The EPA did so in August.

After the talk, Lipton opened the floor for questions.

Noah Sokol FES ’18 asked how the atmosphere in the EPA has changed under Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the EPA.

“People are terrified that they are being spied upon,” Lipton responded. “EPA employees are very worried they are being watched and that their phone calls are being tracked. Some of them are repulsed and devastated by what they see.”

Lipton added that Pruitt himself is also paranoid — his office was recently swept for bugs, he said, and a full-time security detail travels with him.

Kevin McCarthy, a member of New Haven’s Environmental Advisory Council, said he was impressed by Lipton’s talk, describing it as an “interesting conversation.”

Shayna Elliott ’21, who also attended the event, said she appreciated the opportunity to hear about environmental policy from someone who has devoted much of his career to investigating it.

“It was amazing to hear from someone who has been investigating the EPA through multiple administrations,” she said. “He has seen the trends and tensions in ways that seemed unbiased due to his longstanding commitment to this political sphere.”

Lorenzo Arvanitis | lorenzo.arvanitis@yale.edu