09/18/2020 - Federal Policy Analysis

EPA’s Treatment of the Press

EPA leadership has launched continual verbal attacks on the news outlets that report on the agency’s activities, even though both the public and agency staff themselves rely on reporting published in the general media and in the specialty press for information and analysis.

Sharing information with the public is a vital part of EPA’s mission, but under the current administration, EPA has shown a tendency to attack individual reporters or publications covering the agency. EPA has taken an aggressive tone with reporters for major news outlets, going beyond setting the record straight when there are perceived errors to accusations that the reporters or their outlets are intentionally misinforming the public. Given previous press statements, it’s easy to infer that the aim is to penalize reporters who raise questions about the agency’s actions or provide information that might refute or undercut the agency’s claims. EPA has gone as far as banning specific news outlets from sending reporters to events.

Penalizing news outlets impacts even EPA staff. On July 30, 2020, EPA canceled its subscription to E&E News, a leading reporting outlet for environmental and energy news. This denies EPA staff access to one of the sources staff themselves have long relied on for comprehensive information about EPA’s wide-ranging activities. EPA’s own employees are now caught up in the pattern of withholding information that agency leadership has developed since the start of the Trump presidency.