Green Journos Seeing Red Over EPA’s Climate Rule Roll-Out

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Michael Bastasch DCNF Managing Editor
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Environmental journalists are angry with the Environmental Protection Agency over its roll-out of major regulations on carbon dioxide emissions from power plants.

Reporters slammed the agency over refusing to make “on the record” comments when launching a massive global warming regulatory agenda.

The EPA held a conference call last week to brief reporters on the proposed rules, which seek to reduce carbon dioxide emissions 30 percent by 2030 from existing power plants, a major blow to the coal industry.

But the press briefing was only on “background” and most EPA officials speaking on the call refused to identify themselves — meaning the press could not identify who spoke on the call.

When pressed by reporters to go “on the record,” the EPA said the call was “on the record,” but would not let reporters name any officials on the call.

“That’s not what ‘on the record’ means, by any journalistic standard,” Beth Parke, executive director of the Society of Environmental Journalists, wrote in a letter to the EPA administrator Gina McCarthy last week.

“It’s important for you to understand why attribution matters,” Parke wrote. “Many reporters and news organizations, especially those outside the Washington Beltway, hew to the principle that they will only publish or air information provided by a named source.”

“It’s a question of credibility — ours and yours,” Parke added.

According to Parke, the EPA has been holding “no-name background briefings” since former EPA administrator Lisa Jackson headed the agency. Jackson held such briefings on everything from “regulations to the President’s budget proposal for EPA,” according to Parke.

But even Jackson stopped holding these briefings after SEJ and other news groups complained about the lack of transparency. Parke warns that “the practice has returned, on arguably the most momentous action of this agency in this administration.”

“We journalists are personally accountable for what we report about EPA’s actions,” Parke said. Why aren’t your staff members just as accountable for what they tell us? End this insidious practice, which only reinforces public cynicism about a nameless, faceless, feckless federal bureaucracy.”

The EPA’s new power plant rules — called the Clean Power Plan — are some of the most sweeping ever proposed by the agency and would require states to impose new regulatory regimes to rein in carbon dioxide emissions.

Republicans, some states and the coal industry have slammed the rules for setting the stage for higher energy prices and forcing more coal-fired power plants to shut down.

The EPA has launched a huge public relations campaign to tout the benefits of the new rules, which will likely have little to no impact on global warming. Last week, McCarthy even held an “ask me anything” session on Reddit, which irked journalists even more.

“Finally, we note that you held an ‘ask me anything’ session on Reddit Monday, but your only availability to the press on that day was via a scripted speech Webcast from EPA, with no one there to ask you questions,” Parke wrote. “We urge you to hold regular ‘ask me anything’ availabilities with the news media, especially around such important decisions.”

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