The Supreme Court on Monday unequivocally rejected the notion that courts should force power companies to curtail greenhouse gas emissions, but none of the major broadcast networks covered the unanimous decision on their evening newscasts or morning shows.
The New York Times teased the ruling on the front page of Tuesday's paper, directing readers to a thorough analysis of the 8-0 decision, but ABC's "Good Morning America" and "World News," CBS's "Early Show" and "Evening News," and NBC's "Today" and "Nightly News" all skipped a decision that prevents environmentalists from using the courts to impose greenhouse gas regulations on electric utilities.
While the broadcast networks ignored the ruling, Politico highlighted the case on the front page of the June 21 print edition with a misleading headline: "High Court Backs EPA on Emissions."
"The Supreme Court really, really believes the Environmental Protection Agency has the power to regulate greenhouse gas emissions," rejoiced Politico energy reporter Robin Bravender, who eagerly claimed "a big win for the Obama administration" and waited until the fourth graf to acknowledge that environmental advocates actually lost the case.
The decision in American Electric Power v. Connecticut, which pitted power companies against six states, New York City, and several land trusts, denied states the right to sue power plants in federal court over emissions.
Politico is correct to point out that the Court upheld the authority of the EPA to regulate greenhouse gases, but according to the Times, the case centered on whether carbon dioxide emitted from private power plants and the government-funded Tennessee Valley Authority "amounted to a public nuisance under federal common law," as the plaintiffs claimed.
Not only did the Politico reporter lend a misleading impression about the focus of the suit, but she buried the other side's reaction, which undercuts her headline, near the end of the story.
"Greens weren't the only ones celebrating the Supreme Court's decision," remarked Bravender. "Industry and congressional Republicans welcomed the panel's decision to keep regulatory decisions out of the courts."
National Petrochemical & Refiners Association President Charles Drevna doesn't think the "greens" should celebrate the decision, though Politico buried his industry's take under an avalanche of pro-EPA and pro-environmentalist rhetoric.
"The court's ruling is a logical and just decision and should send a signal to those attempting to use arcane legal rules to advance their political agendas," contended Drevna in a press statement. "NPRA has stated unequivocally that discussions regarding the regulation of greenhouse gas emissions should take place in Congress and not in the courts through 'nuisance' or 'public trust' lawsuits and certainly not at the Environmental Protection Agency through the Clean Air Act."
For their part, all three broadcast networks covered the Supreme Court's siding with Wal-Mart against a massive class action lawsuit brought by female workers alleging discrimination.
--Alex Fitzsimmons is a News Analysis intern at the Media Research Center. Click here to follow him on Twitter.