Members of Congress and business interests have debated whether the National Ocean Policy is “an executive power grab” or “makes smart business sense,” at insiders’ outlets like The Hill and Roll Call. But when the AP daybook announced that Obama’s environmental adviser, Nancy Sutley, would be visiting Maryland in February to promote the policy, the media didn’t bite. And when the House passed an amendment to a spending bill in May that blocked funding to implement the National Ocean Policy, almost no one noticed. In an editorial, The New York Times decried the attempt to kill the “worthy effort,” and urged the Senate to block its final passage into law. But that was about it.

There’s been almost nothing in the news about two years’ worth of fighting over a potentially pivotal policy that’s been needed for over a decade. Part of that could be the administration’s fault. Last week, the Joint Ocean Commission—a committee of distinguished marine experts from governmental and non-governmental organizations—issued its Ocean Policy Report Card for 2012, which gave the feds a ‘C’ in national support and leadership.

The recent clashes may be drawing the attention of more reporters, however. Now that her piece about wilderness protection is done, Eilperin is working on a piece for the Post about Obama’s record on offshore conservation. “I’ve been tracking how National Ocean Policy has gone from a wonky issue to a political flash point for several months,” she said in an interview, “and it speaks to how polarized national environmental policy has become.”

As Eilperin wrote in her piece earlier this week, the president’s “record remains largely unwritten,” but that’s not only because he might have four years left in office. It also has a more literal meaning—one which journalists need to correct.


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Curtis Brainard is the editor of The Observatory, CJR's online critique of science and environment reporting. Follow him on Twitter @cbrainard.