May 29, 2013

Write your own news story

From: The Berkeley Blog

by Dan Farber, professor of law

Just fill in the blanks, and you can save yourself the trouble of reading newspaper accounts about any new EPA action:

New EPA Regulations Spark Controversy

The Environmental Protection Agency today announced tough new regulations on [name of industry].  According to the agency, the regulations will save thousands of lives by reducing dangerous levels of [name of substance] pollution. The total cost of the regulations is estimated at $[number] billions. The regulations were sent to the White House last year, where they were stalled in the office of the “regulatory czar” until last week.

Environmental advocates expressed qualified support for EPA’s action.  “These regulations are a good beginning,” said [name] on behalf of [environmental group].  “It’s unfortunate,” [he/she] added, “that the White House caved to industry pressure and weakened the proposal.”  [He/she] said that environmentalists will continue to fight for stronger regulations and may challenge portions of the proposal in court.  Other environmentalists called the regulation a betrayal of President Obama’s campaign promise of vigorous action to protect public health.

The regulations were also met with a barrage of criticism from industry advocates.  “Once again,” said a spokesperson for the Chamber of Commerce, “industry is being hobbled by job-killing regulations based on bogus science.” According to [name of some Ph.D] from [name of right-wing think tank], EPA’s analysis was “slipshod and biased,” a charge dismissed by agency experts.

Congressional Republicans vowed action to kill the regulations.  Representative [name of Republican] from [some Southern state], called the regulations “yet another step in the Obama Administration’s march toward socialism” and immediately introduced legislation to deprive EPA of the authority to regulate [the pollutant].  Similar legislation has passed the House [some number between 5 and 20] times, only to die in the Senate.

Within minutes of the announcement of the regulations, lawsuits were filed in federal court to stop it from going into effect.  Observers expect the lawsuits will delay implementation of the regulations for several years, but EPA says that it is confident that the courts will ultimately uphold its position.  According to Professor [name], of [name of law school], an expert in [some possibly relevant subject], [add some platitude about the process of judicial review.]

Of course, this wouldn’t work if any of the groups involved ever did anything out of character.  But you’re never going to see a story with any of the following sentences:

  • “The White House quickly approved the regulation with only some minor changes to strengthen it.”
  • “Environmental advocates conceded that the scientific evidence would not have supported a stronger regulation.”
  • “Industry sources privately admitted that the regulation addressed a real problem and was long overdue.”
  • “Rather than go to court, all parties agreed that the regulation was a reasonable compromise that they were prepared to live with.”

Rest assured that the next time a regulation is proposed, everyone will play their assigned parts, and the newspaper account will look just like all the past ones.


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