Thursday, February 08, 2007

There's the truth ... and then there's the truth!

The Hartford Courant and the Associated Press get it wrong, in this story on environmental regulation.

Here's the first line of the short piece:

Aerospace manufacturer Hamilton Sundstrand pleaded guilty Thursday to two counts of violating the federal Clean Water Act, admitting to dumping industrial discharge into the Farmington River from its Windsor Locks plant.

You don't need to go any further to see that they've already confused the story. The Clean Water Act allows dumping of industrial discharge, provided that the discharger has obtained a permit and their discharge meets the requirements of their permit. In this case, Hamilton Sunstrand apparently exceeded their limitations for hex chrome and copper.

This isn't a case where I'm trying to make some sort of point about environmental law- rather, I'm posting here to illustrate how poorly the media reports on matters of environmental law. If you're a reader who doesn't know much about the Clean Water Act, you might get the idea from the first sentence that a company was dumping waste where they weren't supposed to be dumping waste, where in fact, the company was dumping in the right place, but they were essentially dumping too much.

And if the media can't get this right, how much should we trust the mainstream media on other reports of science and policy.

Updated 2/8/07 @ 10:52 AM: Here's the updated version of the story in today's Hartford Courant. The first line of the story is basically the same:

Hamilton Sundstrand agreed Thursday to pay $12 million in penalties for dumping contaminated wastewater into the Farmington River and altering documents for two years to hide violations, state and federal officials said Thursday.

In a way, this longer, local report makes it even less clear that the company exceeded it's permit limits. Knowing the Clean Water Act, I can't really tell the seriousness of the violation from the story- clearly they broke the law, but there's bad and then there's really bad when it comes to the enviornment. If this was really bad, the public should be upset that no one's going to jail. And if this was just bad, well, 12 million dollars in penalties might be fair. Again, the point is, the reporters writing these stories don't seem to have a clue what they're talking about.


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