EPA vs. the AP
Environmental Protection Agency smears journalist after criticism of Harvey inspections
In 1984, the Environmental Protection Agency was portrayed as cartoonish poltroons turning a blind eye to real danger, courtesy of pencil-necked geek Walter Peck in Ghostbusters. Thirty-three years later, the federal agency's response to Hurricane Harvey blitzing 13 highly polluted Superfund sites in Texas has been equally cartoonish, but nowhere near as funny. On Sept. 2, Jason Dearen and Michael Biesecker of the Associated Press reported that AP staff on-site at seven Superfund sites around Houston found they were all flooded and had not yet been inspected by the EPA. Rather than explain when inspections would begin, an EPA press release accused the AP of being "fake news," and went on a rampage against Biesecker, citing a grumpy editorial from The Oklahoman, and a hit piece in Breitbart News. Unfortunately for the EPA, environmental watchdog TexPIRG reported two days later that the agency had still only visited five of Texas' 13 affected Superfund sites, and has not yet officially confirmed that any were leak-free. As for non-Superfund sites, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality had only inspected five out of 17 hazardous waste sites. Of the rest, 11 had not yet been reached, and one was still flooded. As for the attack on Biesecker, AP Senior Vice President and Executive Editor Sally Buzbee said in a statement: "We object to the EPA's attempts to discredit that reporting by suggesting it was completed solely from 'the comforts of Washington' and stand by the work of both journalists who jointly reported and wrote the story."