SEJ Objects to EPA "No Attribution" Presser on Carbon Rule

June 11, 2014

SEJ objected strenuously last week to the ground rules for a telephone press briefing on U.S. EPA's carbon emissions rule for existing power plants.

In a June 5, 2014, letter to Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy, the Society of Environmental Journalists objected to the "truncated, anonymous "background" tele-briefing for news media" held on the June 2 roll-out day.

"When journalists questioned why it was 'background' and not 'on the record,' we were informed it was 'on the record,' but any comments made were to be attributed to an unnamed 'senior EPA official,'" wrote SEJ Executive Director Beth Parke and WatchDog Project Director Joseph A. Davis. "That's not what 'on the record' means, by any journalistic standard."

EPA's response came from Tom Reynolds, Associate Administrator for External Affairs and Environmental Education in a June 10 letter to SEJ.

"We at EPA are committed to an open and productive engagement with the press and the general public," Reynolds wrote. "As a matter of course, we routinely and regularly make Administrator McCarthy available to the media, as well as engage the public directly through a variety of social media channels, including Twitter, Google+, and Reddit."

Reynolds' letter did not address the issues raised by SEJ: briefing ground-rules, "background" versus "on the record," anonymity, attribution, and the need for public officials to be accountable for what they say.