Science under siege: behind the scenes at Trump’s troubled environment agency
The day Donald Trump took office as US president, the mood was sombre at the main research campus of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in Durham, North Carolina. As scientists arrived for work, they saw pictures of former president Barack Obama and the previous EPA administrator, Gina McCarthy, coming down off the walls. Researchers had reason to be anxious: Trump had threatened many times during his campaign to shutter the EPA, and he had already taken steps along that path. Weeks before he moved into the White House, Trump had nominated Scott Pruitt to head the agency — a man who had spent his career filing lawsuits to block a variety of EPA regulations.
When Trump put his hand on the Bible to take the oath of office on 20 January 2017, many EPA scientists kept their heads down. They wondered who might be fired first, and they warned each other to censor their e-mails, for fear that the new administration would monitor communications for any comments criticizing it.
Dan Costa wasn’t so worried. After nearly 32 years working at the EPA, he had seen the agency weather many political storms, and he had not lost sleep over the prospect of working for Pruitt and Trump. When inauguration day came, Costa streamed Trump’s speech on his computer and went straight back to work.