When Reporters Cease to be Watchdogs
Newspapers are among America's most important watchdogs and this column has long championed the print media in carrying out their duties. It is because of the importance of newspapers as watchdogs that a recent USA Today article on a pesticide study by NRDC was so disappointing.
The article states that EPA "used a regulatory loophole to approve 65% of 16,000 pesticides that pose a potential threat to public health...." Don't however expect any discussion of the supposed loophole. Also, don't look for any independent analysis of NRDC's claims about EPA's pesticide registration process. Instead, the USAToday article reads like an NRDC press release. The article even places in the sub-headline NRDC's claims regarding EPA's purported use of a "loophole" to allow pesticides on the market.
EPA's statement that they haven't reviewed the study and that the agency "confirms that products initially registered on a conditional basis are not posing unacceptable risks to human health or the environment" is buried in the middle of the article and is not discussed.
The news article contains no comments from pesticide manufacturers, academicians, think tanks or anyone else who might question NRDC's conclusions or offer a different perspective on EPA's regulatory processes.
Technological changes beyond industry control are hammering the print news industry, threatening its viability. It is possible for print media companies to survive but to do so, they will need to do more than act as publicity arms of interest groups.
See USA Today
NGOs Coming to Terms with Fracking?
Environmental watchdogs including the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) have partnered with several energy companies to create the Center for Sustainable Shale Development.
The Center describes itself as "an independent organization whose mission is to support continuous improvement and innovative practices through performance standards and third-party certification." The organization is focused "on shale development in the Appalachian Basin" and "provides a forum for a diverse group of stakeholders to share expertise with the common objective of developing solutions and serving as the center of excellence for shale gas development."
As described in a Washington Post editorial, the Center is intended to function as an "independent standard-setter that will certify when companies comply with its rules." According to the Post, "The rule-writing process is ongoing, but the center's initial offering is impressive, outpacing the government's regulatory efforts and addressing many of the major environmental concerns."
Use of voluntary industry standards in lieu of command-and-control regulation offers substantial possibility for achieving environmental gains at lower costs. It is worth noting that the President's cybersecurity Executive Order emphasizes use of voluntary consensus standards and industry best practices.
Whether the Center succeeds in promoting further clean and safe development of natural gas remains to be seen. It is clear, however, that there is a growing recognition among government, industry and civil society stakeholders that alternatives are needed to cumbersome and expensive regulation which discourages economic growth.
See Center for Sustainable Shale Development
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