Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Michael J. Lynch, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Tom Mieczkowski, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Wilson Palacios, Ph.D.

Committee Member

L. Donald Duke, Ph.D.


Environmental crime, EPA, News reporting, Oil industry, Corporate crime


Although examination of the relationship between the media and crime has received considerable attention in the academic literature, only a few studies have examined news media coverage of environmental crimes. The present study examines print news media coverage of federal penalties assessed against the petroleum refining industry from 1997 to 2003. The Environmental Protection Agency initiated and/or settled 162 cases involving seventy-eight petroleum refining companies from 1997 to 2003. While a news search of the nation’s twenty-five largest newspapers produced seventy-four articles related to petroleum refining industry violations, only seventeen articles matched the EPA cases analyzed in the present study. The present study found that while there is a considerable amount of federal petroleum refining industry violations, only a few cases receive media attention. The greatest factor leading to news media coverage of petroleum refining industry violations is the penalty and compliance amount assessed by the EPA. Companies assessed the highest penalties appeared in news media articles, however, only the top seven penalty assessments received news coverage. Overall, the lack of news media coverage of petroleum industry violations suggests that this type of crime is considered less important despite the vast amount of harm to the environment and human health produced by petroleum refining industry violations. Lack of attention by the news media to these important issues may lead to public misunderstanding and ignorance to the causes and consequences of environmental crime.