Since 2005, American taxpayers’ money — some $3.5 million and counting — has gone to support a newspaper heavy on environmental advocacy, including articles critical of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. The monthly newspaper, Chesapeake Bay Journal, has as its chief financial benefactor none other than the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
EPA’s role in bankrolling the publication came to light as a result of an investigation by the agency’s inspector general (IG). The taxpayer money goes from EPA in the form of grants to the Chesapeake Bay Journal through the newspaper’s parent organization, the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, a 501(c) (3) non-profit group. In a highly critical report issued in August, EPA’s IG, an internal watchdog, questioned $1.3 million in agency grant money for the newspaper, strongly suggesting that financial oversight was lax. The IG recommended that the newspaper return over $1 million to the taxpayers.
Karl Blankenship, editor of the Chesapeake Bay Journal (known locally as the Bay Journal), told the Washington Times (Sept. 17) that the newspaper gets about 70 percent of its annual funding from EPA, with the agency’s grants averaging between $250,000 and $350,000 a year. As the Times article notes, the IG’s report makes clear that the government is effectively in the publishing business, “funding a newspaper that writes articles about the government’s own work.”
The Times also points out that, on the newspaper’s website, it acknowledges receiving funding from various sources, including two government agencies. “Publication is made possible through grants from the EPA Chesapeake Bay Program Office, the Campbell Foundation for the Environment, the Town Creek Foundation, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Chesapeake Bay Office, the Chesapeake Bay Trust, and by donations from individuals.” However, a wire service that syndicates the Bay Journal’s content to other newspapers, including the Baltimore Sun, makes no mention of an EPA funding connection.
The Bay Journal and the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay emphatically deny the IG’s charges of grant mismanagement, saying it’s all a matter of misplaced paperwork and recordkeeping. What is clear, however, is that the Bay Journal, a taxpayer supported entity, disseminates “information” that crosses the line into environmental policy advocacy. The September 2012 issue (paper and online) contains an article by Rona Kobell, extolling the virtues of Frac Tracker, an online site that contains “data” about gas-drilling sites in Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale. Kobell informs her readers that the natural-gas boom in the Keystone State has “created overnight millionaires, but has killed fish, polluted drinking water, caused frightening accidents and fragmented the state’s famous forests to the point where they may never be repaired.”
Well-funded green activist groups are swarming all over Pennsylvania and the Southern Tier of Upstate New York, spreading every imaginable story about the “threats” to local communities posed by fracking. The taxpayer-funded Bay Journal appears eager to lend the activists a helping hand.