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Strategic Release of News at EPA
RFF Feature
November 3, 2011Abstract news headlines

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) often publicizes enforcement actions, fines, lawsuit settlements, and changes to environmental regulations with media releases. In addition to providing a deterrent for future environmental transgressors, media releases work by promoting awareness of regulatory action. Given the intended goal of increasing awareness, it would seem that EPA would make such announcements at times that ensure the largest audience draw. However, new research suggests that this may not be the case.

After examining the content and timing of more than 21,000 press releases issued by EPA between 1994 and 2009, RFF Fellow Lucija Muehlenbachs and coauthors Elisabeth Newcomb Sinha and Nitish Ranjan Sinha found press releases announcing enforcement actions or regulatory changes were issued more often on Fridays and before holidays, a time when news has the least impact on media coverage and financial markets.

In “Strategic Release of News at the EPA” the authors maintain that changing the timing of press releases may increase deterrence through increased public awareness of regulation and market reaction to environmental news. For maximum effect, announcements of violations should occur early in the week, rather than on Fridays, when there is likely less scrutiny from both the public and the media.

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