The Environmental Protection Agency hit out at a reporter by name Sunday for writing "an incredibly misleading story" about toxic land sites in Texas flooded in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.
"Despite reporting from the comfort of Washington, [the Associated Press' Michael Biesecker] had the audacity to imply that agencies aren't being responsive to the devastating effects of Hurricane Harvey," EPA Associate Administrator Liz Bowman wrote in an emailed press release. "Not only is this inaccurate, but it creates panic and politicizes the hard work of first responders who are actually in the affected area."
Bowman's statement, unusual in that it singled out a reporter, continued by outlining Biesecker past mistakes.
"Unfortunately ... Biesecker has a history of letting the facts get in the way of his story," she wrote. "Earlier this summer, he made-up a meeting that [EPA] Administrator [Scott] Pruitt had, and then deliberately discarded information that refuted his inaccurate story – ultimately prompting a nation-wide correction."
The AP on Saturday published an article written by Biesecker and his colleague Jason Dearen about how many Superfund spots near Houston, found by the EPA to be among America's most contaminated areas, were flooded, creating a risk that the waters would stir up "dangerous sediment."
AP executive editor Sally Buzbee in a written statement said the piece "was the result of on the ground reporting at Superfund sites in and around Houston, as well as AP's strong knowledge of these sites and EPA practices."
"We object to the EPA's attempts to discredit that reporting by suggesting it was completely solely from 'the comforts of Washington' and stand by the work of both journalists who jointly reported and wrote the story," Buzbee wrote.
Superfund is a U.S. federal government program, established under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980, aimed at financing the decontamination of locations affected by hazardous substances and pollutants.
"Through aerial imaging, EPA has already conducted initial assessments at 41 Superfund sites – 28 of those sites show no damage, and 13 have experienced flooding," Bowman added. "This was left out of the original story, along with the fact that EPA and state agencies worked with responsible parties to secure Superfund sites before the hurricane hit."