EPA Caught Taking A Fracking Dump
Friday Afternoon News Dump Buries Controversial Fracking Report
If History is a Guide, EPA Will Again Support Fracking
On Friday, EPA released an important report on fracking.
But, it got virtually no media coverage because it was issued alongside 2 other complex and controversial air regulations and on late Friday afternoon, a cynical practice known as a “news dump”.
The National Journal explains and calls out EPA:
Because this Friday is a particularly busy news day, EPA’s actions will likely get buried more than they would have on a slower news day. But EPA is no stranger to the Friday news-dump strategy. Resources for the Future, a nonprofit and nonpartisan environmental group based in Washington, culled through more than 21,000 press releases issued by EPA between 1994 and 2009 to conclude the agency announced new regulations and enforcement actions on Fridays and before holidays, “a time when news has the least impact on media coverage and financial markets.”
Last Friday, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson announced a tougher standard for soot pollution that comes from a host of sources, such as cars and power plants. EPA was facing a legal deadline to issue the standard on that day. That news got buried deep beneath the coverage of the Connecticut school shooting, which occurred that morning.
For complying with court mandated deadlines and hiding from the media on a Friday afternoon before a holiday, EPA Administrator Jackson has been praised in some quarters as a bold and vindicated leader.
We obviously strongly disagree. We find such dumps underhanded and indicators of cowardice, not courage and leadership.
[Update 12/24 – and we knew the routine applause from Friends of Lisa was coming.]
But, aside from Lisa Jackson’s “leadership” and the EPA air rules, let’s take a quick look at the EPA Fracking Report.
(to read the full Report, see: Study of the Potential Impacts of Hydraulic Fracturing on Drinking Water Resource – Progress Report
We attended a protest and testified on the public hearing in Binghamton NY, to scope that study (see: On the Threshold of a Fracking Nightmare).
At that hearing, we urged EPA to dramatically expand the scope of what then was contemplated as a narrow study on drinking water, to address cumulative impacts, climate change impacts, health effects, and land use change and ecological effects.
Here’s how EPA’s press release spun the study:
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today provided an update on its ongoing national study currently underway to better understand any potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing on drinking water resources. Results of the study, which Congress requested EPA to complete, are expected to be released in a draft for public and peer review in 2014. The update provided today outlines work currently underway, including the status of research projects that will inform the final study. It is important to note that while this progress report outlines the framework for the final study, it does not draw conclusions about the potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing on drinking water resources, which will be made in the final study.
In other words, EPA not only buried the Report in a Friday afternoon news dump before a major holiday, the Report itself merely kicked the can down the road and dodged the big issues.
Worse, EPA felt the need to reiterate and go out of the way to appease critics, and make sure to stress that the Obama Administration supported fracking, thereby signaling that any EPA Final Report would merely tinker around the regulatory margins and pose no existential threat to the fracking industry.
To get a sense of how bad this is, those reassuring EPA signals come at a time when environmmentalists are calling for outright bans, local governments are enacting bans, and state governments are enacting moratoria:
As the administration and EPA has made clear, natural gas has a central role to play in our energy future, and this important domestic fuel source has extensive economic, energy security, and environmental benefits. The study EPA is currently undertaking is part of EPA’s focus to ensure that the Administration continues to work to expand production of this important domestic resource safely and responsibly.
The emphasis is on expanding production.
Obama wouldn’t want to be accused of waging a “war on gas” like the faux manufactured war he is allegedly waging on coal, when in fact his administration has set records for coal extraction rates (and oil and gas production too).
It will take us some time to review and analyzed the 250 page Report –
Our intent here was to work around the EPA news dump strategy and get word out on this important EPA research project.
We are not comforted by the fact that the report opens with this very first sentence:
Natural gas plays a key role in our nation’s clean energy future.
That is not a scientific conclusion – it is a propaganda, public relations, and marketing statement.
No wonder this Report was released via a dump.
(and lets not forget the history here: It was a favorable Whitman EPA 2004 Report to Congress that claimed there were no risks from fracking that served as the basis for Congress to enact the infamous “Haliburton Loophole” in the 2005 Energy Policy Act. Dick Cheney did not write that EPA Report.)