The Daily Caller's Executive Editor Takes a Swing, Misses By a Mile, Falls Over a Traffic Cone

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Sept. 29 2011 10:02 AM

The Daily Caller's Executive Editor Takes a Swing, Misses By a Mile, Falls Over a Traffic Cone

The Daily Caller responds to reports that debunked its story on the "$21 billion" EPA rule, and David Martosko spends two paragraphs of the magazine's clean-up editorial snarking at me. I can understand why, because the Caller's 2010 story about my JournoList e-mails was the rarest of things: A Caller scoop that didn't fall apart upon closer inspection.

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

Dave Weigel, the Slate blogger who was a Washington Post employee until the “Journo-list” debacle hit the fan in 2010, declared without so much as a tiptoe through the facts that we “[got] the story wrong.”
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I suppose the non sequitur about JournoList is a signpost to readers: "Don't take this guy seriously!" But the Caller caught me out for sending mean and unprofessional e-mails on a listserv, not for getting facts wrong in published articles. I leave that stuff up to Martosko. Before calling up Sen. James Inhofe's office, I scanned the report and found the section in question. It comes when the EPA argues that a tailoring rule is necessary to avoid an impossible bureaucratic expansion.

EPA studied and considered the breadth and depth of the projected administrative burdens in the Tailoring Rule. There, EPA explained that immediately applying the literal PSD statutory threshold of 100/250 tpy to greenhouse gas emissions, when coupled with the “any increase” trigger for modifications under 42 U.S.C. §§7479, 7411(a)(4), would result in annual PSD permit applications submitted to State and local permitting agencies to increase nationwide from 280 to over 81,000 per year, a 300-fold increase. 75 Fed. Reg. at 31,535-40, 31,554. Following a comprehensive analysis, EPA estimated that these additional PSD permit applications would require State permitting authorities to add 10,000 full-time employees and incur additional costs of $1.5 billion per year just to process these applications, a 130-fold increase in the costs to States of administering the PSD program. Id. at 31,539/3. Sources needing operating permits would jump from 14,700 to 6.1 million as a result of application of Title V to greenhouse gases, a 400-fold increase. When EPA assumed a mere 40-fold increase in applications – one-tenth of the actual increase – and no increase in employees to process them, the processing time for Title V permits would jump from 6-10 months to ten years. Hiring the 230,000 full-time employees necessary to produce the 1.4 billion work hours required to address the actual increase in permitting functions would result in an increase in Title V administration costs of $21 billion per year. Id. at 31,535-40, 31,577.
Based on this analysis, EPA found that applying the literal statutory thresholds (100/250 tpy) on January 2, 2011, would “overwhelm[] the resources of permitting authorities and severely impair[] the functioning of the programs....” 75 Fed. Reg. at 31,514. After considerable study and receipt of public comment, EPA determined that by phasing in the statutory thresholds, it could almost immediately achieve most of the emission benefits that would result from strict adherence to the literal 100/250 tpy threshold while avoiding the permit gridlock that unquestionably would result from the immediate application of that threshold. This phase-in process would also allow EPA time to develop streamlining measures that could eventually ease administration at the statutory thresholds.

How did Martosko come to the conclusion that I didn't check the facts? He didn't ask me, so let's assume Occam's razor: He doesn't really know what "facts" are. This is what I meant in my original post, truncated by Martosko: "Not news: A magazine gets a story wrong. News: Several enviro-skeptic Republicans latched onto the story to make their cases against the EPA." I wasn't interested in the original story about the Caller, which Markoko joined in July after a career at Berman and Company. The story, to me, was whether Republicans endorsed this interpretation of the EPA's argument.

Later in the non-mea culpa:

We don’t expect to hear from Weigel. He snarked Wednesday on Twitter that “The Daily Caller employs 230,000 fact-checkers at a cost of $21 billion” — and later deleted the tweet after Conn Carroll at The Washington Examiner published a thoughtful analysis of his own that agreed with ours.

There is a fact here: I deleted that tweet! I deleted a bad version of the tweet with a typo: "The Daily Caller employees 230,000 fact-checkers..." etc. Checking Twitter now, I see that I deleted the correct version, too. My mistake. Martosko could have asked why this happened; hey, it's not like The Caller doesn't have my e-mail address! Instead, he fabricated a causation: I deleted it after (i.e., because) Conn Carroll proved the Caller's story 100 percent right. Nope. I noticed my mistake, clicked "delete," and later saw Carroll's tweet and retweeted it was a "Haha."

All that said, I really like the Caller's politics and horse race reporting, and I think people should keep on reading it, despite Martosko's incompetence.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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