UPDATED: Daily Caller Compounds Error With Bad Rationalization

Blog ››› ››› JOCELYN FONG

This week we caught Daily Caller reporter Matthew Boyle completely misreading a court brief to claim that the "EPA is asking taxpayers to fund up to 230,000 new government workers" to process greenhouse gas regulations "at an estimated cost of $21 billion." In reality, EPA was describing a scenario that it avoided by issuing a rule in May 2010 significantly reducing the number of facilities required to obtain permits for greenhouse gas emissions.

Boyle's report -- which was circulated by Sen. Inhofe's office and made its way to Fox News -- was just wrong. But rather than issue a correction, Daily Caller doubled down, telling Politico that "anyone who has spent more than a few months in Washington knows" EPA wouldn't try to "limit its own power." As more commentators noticed this brazen disregard for the facts, The Daily Caller came up with a more substantive response, still insisting the story "was spot-on and accurate":

Our story about the EPA was spot-on and accurate. It's true that the agency's court filing outlined a "tailoring rule" as a more gradual approach to hiring 230,000 people at a cost of $21 billion. But the EPA was clear that "the Tailoring Rule is calculated to move toward eventual full compliance with the statutory threshold" -- meaning it's not a question of if the EPA wants to triple its budget, but when.

Nope. The brief did not present the tailoring rule "as a more gradual approach to hiring 230,000 people at a cost of $21 billion." It presented the rule as a way to circumvent a scenario in which state and local agencies would need 230,000 employees to review 6.1 million permit applications. The rule phases in compliance, "thereby relieving the overwhelming regulatory burdens on both permitting authorities and literally millions of stationary sources."

You don't need 230,000 new workers if you don't have a massive flood of permit applications to process all at once. Instead of 6.1 million sources requiring operating permits, EPA expects 15,550 -- 97 percent of which can add greenhouse gases to the permits they already have for other pollutants.

The brief adds that "this phase-in process would also allow EPA time to develop streamlining measures" necessary for broader enforcement:

After considerable study and receipt of public comment, EPA determined that by phasing in the statutory thresholds, it could almost immediately achieve most of the emission benefits that would result from strict adherence to the literal 100/250 tpy [tons per year] threshold while avoiding the permit gridlock that unquestionably would result from the immediate application of that threshold. This phase-in process would also allow EPA time to develop streamlining measures that could eventually ease administration at the statutory thresholds. Thus, EPA promulgated the Tailoring Rule to 'phase[] in the applicability of these programs to GHG sources, starting with the largest GHG emitters.'

According to the Supreme Court, greenhouse gases are an "air pollutant" under the Clean Air Act. The threshold for regulation of conventional pollutants under the Act is 100-250 tons per year, but emissions of greenhouse gases are much greater than, for instance, lead and sulfur dioxide. So the tailoring rule allows EPA to regulate emission permits starting at 75,000-100,000 tons per year, which still "captures approximately 86% of the emissions of greenhouse gases that would be captured by immediate, full application of the statutory 100/250 tpy threshold." The threshold will not be lowered past 50,000 at any point before April 2016.

The brief also states that by May 2016, EPA will have conducted "a five-year study" of the greenhouse gas regulations and will issue a rule "addressing what action can be taken" regarding smaller sources of emissions. The tailoring rule, EPA says, is designed to "move toward" compliance with the 100-250 tpy threshold, unless the "impossibility of full administrative implementation persists."

As the National Journal reported, industry groups know they can't overturn the Supreme Court's 2007 decision establishing EPA's authority to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act, "so instead industry lawyers are homing in" on the tailoring rule, which if successfully challenged "will force EPA back into the politically and practically untenable position of regulating all those millions of entities."

But there's no evidence that Boyle was aware of any of this until today, when his editors began scrambling for an explanation. In fact, the article didn't even address the tailoring rule at all.


Daily Caller now has an editor's post up defending the story (read: writing what they wish the initial article had said and claiming that's "what we've been saying since Monday.") The post notes that "Sen. James Inhofe weighed in, supporting our report." Oh good.

Daily Caller remains in the wrong for the reasons explained above. And they still don't seem to understand the basics of the issue, claiming EPA is "in court to ask a court for permission" to use the tailoring rule and that "new regulations (as written) would force it to hire those 230,000 new federal employees." EPA is already implementing these permitting requirements and is in court to defend the tailoring rule. EPA didn't write new regulations that would require 230,000 employees, it wrote a regulation to avoid that scenario after the permitting requirements were automatically triggered by the vehicle emissions rule.

But you don't need to get into those details to know that Daily Caller simply published a bad report. Just read the story. Boyle wrote (twice!) that EPA is "asking for taxpayers to shoulder the burden of up to 230,000 new bureaucrats -- at a cost of $21 billion -- to attempt to implement the rules." And after the story was posted, Boyle tweeted this:

Boyle tweet

more boyle tweets
Posted In
Environment & Science, Climate Change
Matthew Boyle
The Daily Caller
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