NPR Listeners Hear EPA Touted as 'Environmental Investment Agency'

In the Obama era, the Environmental Protection Agency and its chief Lisa Jackson have been absolutely non-controversial in the national media. Few reporters have considered its aggressive “green” tactics a job-crusher. In fact, on Wednesday night’s “Marketplace” business show on many NPR stations, that notion was mocked as a playground taunt that children might make. Reporter Adriene Hill began:

Here's my best impression of politicians talking about environmental rules: "They're job killers." "Are not." "Are too." "Are not."  You get the point.

Did Hill go to college to learn sophisticated broadcast writing like this? From this introduction, Hill and her underworked supervisors imply it’s not really important to the U.S. economy (or to Obama’s re-election) if the EPA drives up the unemployment rate or the inflation rate for energy. Hill casually talked past the potential costs:

HILL: But these environmental regulations are political because they're about more than green trees and clean air -- they're about money. On the cost side: the EPA estimates energy companies will need to pay up about $3 billion to comply with the new smog rule. Some plants will close probably down. And for you and me:

METIN CELEBI, THE BRATTLE GROUP: All of these regulations would likely result in an increase in the cost of power.

Believe it or not, Celebi offered the only sentence in this story that didn’t sound like the tinny arf of an EPA lapdog (to borrow from George Will), even if that soundbite was incredibly vague, and obvious. (Celebi's talking about coal plant "retirements" because the retrofitting's too expensive.) Why is Hill so casual about plants shutting down? Is that something to be expected, even cheered?

Everything that followed Celebi was the official Obama administration spin, and worse. The Obama EPA as the “Environmental Investment Agency”? Does that sound "nonpartisan" to anyone?

HILL: The EPA estimates the price of electricity could inch up around 2 percent. But there are economic benefits to clean air. According to the EPA, the new rule could save between $120 billion and $290 billion.

LISA MARGONELLI: Maybe if we were in a different political mindset, we wouldn't call it the Environmental Protection Agency. Maybe we'd call it the Environmental Investment Agency.

HILL: Lisa Margonelli is with the nonpartisan New America Foundation. She says a lot of the benefit comes in the form of better public health: less asthma, fewer sick days, fewer early deaths.

MARGONELLI: Putting those scrubbers on the tip of smoke stacks sounds kind of abstract, but the quality of life issues are actually really real.

HILL: The White House Office of Management and Budget recently released a report estimating the economic costs and benefits of EPA rules. It found that the long-term benefits dwarf the initial price tag. I’m Adriene Lee for Marketplace.

This report underlines the Rush Limbaugh line that NPR stations sound like "state-owned radio." This show is not produced by NPR, but by the production company American Public Media. Still, it airs on many NPR stations. It's on DC station WAMU for a half-hour each weeknight at 6 pm.

Hill is assigned to the "sustainability project" (translation: environmentalist advocacy unit) at APM, funded by a grant from the Kendeda Fund, which seeks to explore "how human beings can relate to one another and to this planet more mindfully and use resources equitably."


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