Conflicts of Interest Raise Questions about Eppy Award for Anti-Fracking Report

A recent report that accused the oil and gas industry of polluting the air in south Texas under lax regulatory enforcement has been given an award for journalistic excellence, even though the report suffered from conflicts of interest and questionable reporting tactics.

Every year the publication Editor & Publisher gives out its “Eppy Awards” to media-affiliated websites across the country, ranging from best website to best innovative project. This year, the Eppy for “Best Investigative/Enterprise Feature” went to “Big Oil, Bad Air,” a controversial and heavily flawed report authored by a research team at InsideClimate News (ICN), the Center for Public Integrity (CPI), and the Weather Channel. Energy In Depth pointed out the myriad errors in the report the same day it was published.

This summer, Energy In Depth published a follow-up investigation, highlighting how the same foundations that bankroll the anti-fracking movement also fund ICN and CPI. EID also identified journalistic failings in “Big Oil, Bad Air,” including the research team’s refusal to identify its affiliations with multiple interviewees and the presentation of false information in the course of an interview. InsideClimate News publisher David Sassoon attempted to respond to these criticisms, but ended up doing more to confirm the publication’s bias than refute any of the issues raised.

A separate report from the Washington Free Beacon examined how InsideClimate News “shares donors with green groups it routinely cites,” noting specifically the use of anti-fracking groups in the “Big Oil, Bad Air” report.

Meanwhile, the San Antonio Business Journal reported on several of the criticisms of “Big Oil, Bad Air” back in February, highlighting how even the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality called the report a “sad, desperate assault” the state’s energy industry. The Texas Railroad Commission, the primary regulator of oil and gas development in the state, characterized the researchers as “strictly anti-oil and gas.”

For these reasons, Energy In Depth is sending a letter – embedded below – to Editor & Publisher explaining the myriad problems with “Big Oil, Bad Air,” ranging from clear violations of established journalistic standards to poor research.

Without a doubt, the Eagle Ford Shale is providing a lifeline for thousands of working families in south Texas. Cities and towns that have been desperate for economic growth for many years are now finding new opportunities from oil and gas development. EID believes that organizations funded by the same groups that are actively working to deny that opportunity to hardworking Texans shouldn’t get a free pass just because they claim to be journalists.

The full letter to Editor & Publisher can be accessed here.


EID Letter to Editor & Publisher Magazine

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