In December, the EPA's Environmental Appeals Board ordered the EPA to revisit two permits the agency had granted to Shell Oil for oil exploration off the coast of Alaska. The board -- which was responding to an appeal from Alaska native and environmental groups -- determined that the EPA had made two errors in issuing the clean air permits and told the agency's regional office that they needed to be revised. On February 3, Shell announced that the drilling projects would be postponed until after 2011 due to the permit delays and Alaska's short (105 day) offshore drilling season.
According to a search of Nexis and our archive, the Fox News Channel did not cover either the appeals board decision or the Shell announcement ... until this week. After FoxNews.com posted an article on the delayed Shell permits yesterday, Fox News ran segments on the issue during both Happening Now and America Live, two of Fox's purportedly "straight news" daytime shows. Glenn Beck also discussed the Shell permits on his Fox News show.
Why the sudden burst of coverage of a story that is a couple months old? Fox's framing may provide the answer. From America Live:
SHANNON BREAM (host): As gas prices rocket toward $5 a gallon, we're now learning the Environmental Protection Agency has thrown a roadblock in front of an exploration effort that could give the U.S. access to an estimated 27 billion barrels of oil.
BREAM: According to Shell Oil Company, the EPA denied the company a permit to access -- to a drilling location just off the shore of Alaska. Lou Dobbs, syndicated radio host, joins us now to talk about it. What do you make of this because we've heard the president say again and again in recent speeches that he is for responsible domestic drilling and he's encouraging it?
LOU DOBBS: The EPA has become something that is ugly and oppressive rather than simply protecting the environment and working in coordination with business, with the capitalist financial system and the American society. It's unconscionable.
BREAM: I don't think it's going anywhere. So do you think it operates any differently under a Republican president?
DOBBS: Well, with four Democrats and environmental activists sitting on the board - the appeals board, it operates quite differently. [Fox News, America Live, 4/25/11, emphasis added]
And from Glenn Beck yesterday:
BECK: If the president wants to find out why oil is so expensive, he might want to try thinking about the EPA because the EPA today told Shell -- the evil oil company -- that it can't drill in Alaska this summer as planned. No. Now that one move flushes $4 billion of Shell's money right down the drain and jeopardizes the oil pipeline in Alaska.
Mr. President, does that make gas prices go up or down? [Fox News, Glenn Beck, 4/25/11, via Nexis, emphasis added]
Fox Nation also linked to the FoxNews.com article with this headline:
In related news, Republicans have announced that they plan to "capitalize on record prices at the pump with a May focus on oil and gasoline," according to Politico.
Of course, even if Shell had begun its exploratory drilling in the Arctic yesterday, it wouldn't do anything to bring down the high gas prices because the wells wouldn't start producing significant amounts of oil for several years, assuming the exploration is successful.
During the America Live segment, guest Lou Dobbs repeatedly lambasted the Obama administration, claiming that the Shell permit issue showed "a passive aggressive exploration policy on the part of this administration," whch he claimed is "working very hard to create de facto an absolute ban on domestic energy production and it's unconscionable." Dobbs further declared that "The EPA has become something that is ugly and oppressive rather than simply protecting the environment and working in coordination with business, with the capitalist financial system and the American society. It's unconscionable."
Host Shannon Bream made a point of noting, as did the FoxNews.com article, that the judges on the Environmental Review Board "are registered Democrats, one of them an attorney with the Environmental Defense Fund."
But at no point did Bream or Dobbs make clear that EPA had actually granted the permits in the first place. Rather, Bream seemed to suggest that the permits were denied by EPA and that Shell had appealed the decision, when in fact, the permits were granted but remanded only after they were contested by conservation groups and stakeholders in Alaska. Bream also did not note that the EPA immediately requested that the appeals board reconsider its decision.
Also left out of the discussion was the fact that Shell reportedly expects to begin drilling in the Arctic next year or that Shell Alaska's vice president has said that despite the delay of the clean air permits, he thinks that "The administration has responded cautiously but favorably to Shell's offshore Alaska plans."
From the April 25 edition of Fox News' America Live: