EPA's Hush-Hush Ground Rules Rile Reporters

May 5, 2010

The Obama administration has been quick to claim openness — but its Environmental Protection Agency has been conducting press operations with some pretty heavy non-disclosure rules. The EPA press office has been asking reporters not to name top EPA officials who participate in news teleconferences and brief journalists. Only EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson can be named, they say.

Veteran reporter Robert McClure, who has been covering EPA for decades, remarked on this in a blog post on InvestigateWest:

"Today the agency, for the second time in three months, held a news conference on a major announcement and ordered reporters not to reveal the names of EPA officials addressing the public through the news media," McClure wrote. "What is the meaning of this? Who are they afraid of?"

The latest incident was a May 4 briefing on EPA's proposed delay in issuing its coal-ash rule. A lot of questions didn't get answered in the briefing, including the question of whether President Obama's Office of Management and Budget overruled any recommendations of the EPA staff (whom, we note again, had been rendered faceless and nameless by the ground rules).

After the news conference, the Society of Environmental Journalists formally told EPA that SEJ objected to the "no-attribution" ground rule. Some individual SEJ members also complained on their own, or on behalf of their employers.