EPA argues its blog isn't public information, won't change post

EPA argues its blog isn't public information, won't change post

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) won’t tweak a recent blog post environmentalists say is inaccurate because the agency argues its blog is not considered public information.

The tension stemmed from a June post on the agency’s blog that included apparent praise for EPA action on pesticides considered harmful to bees.

“The Washington Post has also recently reported on some of our efforts, saying that ‘the Trump administration’s action [to protect pollinators] was welcome news to some environmentalists,’ which demonstrates how united Americans are on this important issue,” Alexandra Dapolito Dunn, the EPA’s assistant administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, wrote in the blog post.

But that Washington Post article more broadly referenced how the EPA scaled back the use of some pesticides as part of a legal settlement with the Center for Food Safety.

The article also quoted George Kimbrell, the legal director of the center, saying, “Certainly we have a ways to go.”

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The EPA recently expanded the use of a pesticide considered harmful to bees.

The Center for Biological Diversity filed a complaint under the Information Quality Act, which can be used to demand a correction of inaccurate information from government sources. 

“This statement fails to capture the impetus for EPA’s cancelation of the pesticide products, which was that an environmental non-profit had to sue EPA” to stop the use of pesticides harmful to bees, Lori Ann Burd, director of the Center for Biological Diversity’s environmental health program, wrote in the complaint, noting the five-year legal battle. “This quote is taken entirely out of context.”

But the EPA rejected the complaint late last week.

“The EPA Blog is an example of information that would not be considered disseminated by the EPA to the public,” Kevin Kirby of the EPA wrote in response to Burd.

“The guidelines do not apply to ephemeral information, as what is being offered is someone’s opinion rather than fact or EPA’s views,” he said. 

The EPA blog page includes an editor’s note after each post saying it is for “informational purposes only” and that the views are “intended to explain EPA policy.”

But the EPA is known to be aggressive in combating reporting it considers misleading. The agency regularly sends out press releases critiquing articles in various outlets. 

“EPA’s points are made in the blog post, and we stand by our statements. I’m sorry these organizations are taking issue with the Washington Post, and our actions to preserve and protect pollinators,” EPA spokesman Michael Abboud told The Hill in a statement. 

The center’s complaint came in the wake of an EPA decision in July to expand the use of sulfoxaflor, a pesticide the agency previous said was very highly toxic to bees. 

The EPA said the economic plight of farmers was a factor in its decision. The agency said growers could see net revenue losses of up to 50 percent if they aren't able to use the pesticide.

The Center for Biological Diversity sued over that decision in August, arguing the EPA failed to compile “substantial evidence” as required under law before approving sweeping new uses of sulfoxaflor.

Updated: 7:23 p.m.