While Solyndra still makes headlines, last week brought yet another “scandal” that truly isn’t into the light.
According to EPA’s Inspector General (IG), EPA should have undertaken a different review process in developing the document that serves the 2009 endangerment finding and allows them to regulate GHGs under the Clean Air Act. EPA classified the document as a “technical support document.” The IG felt that EPA should have classified the document as a “highly influential scientific assessment,” which is required to undergo a greater amount of scientific review. Both the EPA and OMB, which establishes the peer-review guidelines for rulings such as endangerment finding, agree that the endangerment finding did not need this scrutiny is because it did not cover “new science.”
What’s more scandalous than this IG report is the way the story is being reported. Washington Post correspondent Juliet Elprin writes great environmental pieces. But in her piece about the IG’s report, she commits a fatal flaw, one that Mark Hertsgaard points out in his latest book Hot. The flaw is one of “journalistic balance.” Reporters will try to give due process to both sides of an issue. The problem with this technique is that it presents the issue in a distorted view, making it seems as though there is equal weight to both sides of an issue. In the case of climate change/global warming, 98% of the scientific community agrees that this is predicament is attributable to human activity and it requires action. But when one looks at the issue through the lense of the journalism, it may not seem as so.
With Elprin’s piece, one would think there is a much larger issue in play. The title, for one, is misleading. The article itself starts off by describing the IG’s report and then proceeding to say the EPA did not need the requirements of a highly influential scientific assessment. Nowhere does she mention that the EPA did follow all of the guidelines for a technical support document, which is how the document was classified. Only two-thirds into the piece does she mention that the agency actually met the legally requirements for issuing the finding.
So why is this an issue?
(For a better example of how to this issue should have been reported, try and access the article from Congressional Quarterly. It started by establishing—accurately—that EPA did the right thing.)