The New York Times Substantially Rewrites ‘Scoop’ About Trump’s EPA. Doesn’t Issue A Correction

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Michael Bastasch DCNF Managing Editor
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  • The New York Times made substantial changes to an article on the Environmental Protection Agency but had not issued a correction as of Tuesday morning.
  • The article claimed EPA would change how it models potential deaths from air pollution when finalizing the Affordable Clean Energy rule.
  • EPA, however, challenged The Times’ initial reporting.

The New York Times made substantial changes to an article claiming the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will use new modeling that minimizes projected deaths from air pollution.

The “scoop,” based on anonymous sources, initially reported new pollution modeling would be used to justify the Trump administration’s Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) rule, which is set to replace the Obama-era Clean Power Plan aimed at fighting climate change.

The Times, however, did not issue a correction as of Tuesday morning, despite making substantial edits to the initial story. A top EPA official told The Times the cost-benefit analysis for ACE would include multiple methodologies for assessing public health impacts, not just one new model.

Republicans and conservative activists have long argued EPA in the past misused pollution modeling to justify further government intervention. In particular, EPA critics argue the agency’s inclusion of “co-benefits” from reducing small particulate matter — levels of which already meet agency air quality standards — in its regulatory analysis overstates public health benefits of cutting emissions.

EPA issued a statement to reporters countering NYT’s initial reporting. (RELATED: 2020 Democrat Ups the Ante, Unveils A $10 Trillion Climate Change Agenda)

EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler testifies before a House Energy and Commerce Environment and Climate Change Subcommittee hearing

EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler testifies before the House Energy and Commerce Environment and Climate Change Subcommittee in Washington, U.S., April 9, 2019. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

“To be clear, there is no new methodology related to particulate matter included in the cost-benefit analysis accompanying the final Affordable Clean Energy rule,” said EPA spokesman James Hewitt.

“EPA sets national ambient air quality standards at a level that protects public health with a margin of safety,” Hewitt said. “A longstanding and important question is how much benefit is derived by further reducing ambient levels below the national standards.”

Past reports indicate EPA has been working to clamp down on the use of “co-benefits” for at least the last year or so. EPA has pushed for using public scientific data and revising the so-called “social cost of carbon” estimate.

Citing five anonymous current and former EPA officials, The Times reported Monday that EPA will “adopt a new method for projecting the future health risks of air pollution, one that experts said has never been peer-reviewed and is not scientifically sound.”

The modeling change was “unusual because it discards more than a decade of peer-reviewed E.P.A. methods and relies on unfounded medical assumptions,” The Times initially reported.

Sources said the “new modeling method would be used in the agency’s analysis of the final version of the ACE rule, which is expected to be made public in June,” The Times reported. “William L. Wehrum, the E.P.A. air quality chief, acknowledged in an interview the new method would be part of the agency’s final analysis of the rule.”

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sign is seen on the podium at EPA headquarters in Washington

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sign is seen on the podium at EPA headquarters in Washington, U.S., July 11, 2018. REUTERS/Ting Shen

The Times report set off alarm bells among environmental activists who oppose any changes to how EPA cost-benefit analyses.

Late Monday, however, The Times added that Wehrum’s “aides later said the matter had not been settled.” Wehrum seemed to have eventually cleared up the confusion with The Times. The paper altered its report to say:

“Asked on Monday whether the new method would be included in the agency’s final analysis of the rule, William L. Wehrum, the E.P.A. air quality chief, said only that the final version would include multiple analytical approaches in an effort to be transparent. He said the agency had made no formal change to its methodology.”

EPA’s Hewitt said no methodology change would be made until it had undergone peer-review.

“No change to this scientific method will be made unless and until the new approach has been peer reviewed,” Hewitt said in a statement. “EPA is constantly evaluating approaches to improve transparency and communicate uncertainty regarding costs and benefits of its regulatory actions.”

“The Affordable Clean Energy rule would result in significant reductions in emissions of greenhouse gases as well as precursors of particulate matter and ozone from the power sector,” Hewitt said.

Times reporter Lisa Friedman did not immediately respond to The Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.

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