The Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) filed an open records request Tuesday for information explaining why the EPA criticized a report suggesting the agency was not physically inspecting toxic waste sites damaged by Tropical Storm Harvey.
CBD filed the Freedom of Information Act request because the public should know why the EPA is spending time criticizing journalists and not cleaning up after Harvey, the group wrote in a press statement shortly after making the request.
“The EPA should be working overtime to contain pollution from these dangerously contaminated facilities. Instead the Trump administration is wasting time attacking journalists for reporting the truth,” Amy Atwood, a senior attorney at CBD, wrote in the statement.
“The public has every right to know why the EPA is choosing to spend so much of its time attacking the media rather than using that energy to help victims of Harvey,” she added.
Atwood was referring to the agency’s decision to criticize Associated Press reporter Michael Biesecker for having “the audacity to imply” that the federal government is not properly managing Superfund sites in the wake of Harvey, a storm that pulverized the southeastern section of Texas for nearly a week.
Biesecker, who filed his Sept. 2 report from Washington, D.C., reported Saturday that officials for the agency have not physically inspected the 41 toxic waste sites near Houston. He updated his original report Sunday to include portions of a response the EPA gave Biesecker about his article.
The EPA’s statement on Sunday claims the agency conducted initial assessments at 41 Superfund sites in the area, with 28 of those sites showing no damage and 13 experiencing some flooding.
EPA also claims the agency has several experts in Houston acting in coordination with local officials to determine the severity of the flooding.
Agency officials have issued blistering rebukes against specific reporters in the past. They accused The New York Times in August, for instance, of misrepresenting a ruling the EPA made earlier this year on pesticides activists believe cause various health problems.
TheNYT reported “false facts” about agency head Scott Pruitt’s decision in March not to ban the pesticide chlorpyrifos, the EPA wrote in a statement to the press at the time. Agency officials claim TheNYT withheld information from an Aug. 18 article showing that an appeals court upheld the EPA’s ruling.
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