WatchDog TipSheet

Decades of Petrochemical Industry Documents on Hiding Toxicity in Online Archive

The Center for Public Integrity, Columbia University, and City University of New York have just published some 20,000 pages of hitherto unpublished letters, e-mails, presentations, and meeting minutes from the oil and chemical industries in a public database, called "Exposed: Decades of Denial on Poisons". The documents were accumulated during discovery proceedings in many toxic tort cases.

Ohio Utilities Seek To Keep Reasons for Public "Bailout" Secret from Public

Three major electric utilities want the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) to make ratepayers pay for aging and unprofitable coal and nuclear generation plants in that state. But the ratepayers — the utilities claim — aren't entitled to know whether they might be ripped off.

Foreign Agents May Cloak Environmental Stories

Environmental journalists can find important stories using data about lobbyists registered under the Foreign Agents Registration Act to work for foreign firms and governments. The Sunlight Foundation and other groups have compiled some of the information into a searchable online database — a starting point for finding enviro and energy stories.

FOIA Reform Is Dead; Long Live FOIA Reform

Legislation to strengthen the Freedom of Information Act, a key journalist's tool, died in the final hours of the do-nothing 113th Congress — but hopes remain that the coming 114th Congress could pass the bipartisan package. The bill's Senate passage was delayed by a "hold" placed on it by retiring Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), whose reasons were not clearly explained but were apparently due to banking interests' fears.

Read the Congressional Reports You're Not Supposed To Read

Journalists hurrying to get up to speed on environmental or energy issues can get objective background from reports by the Congressional Research Service (an arm of the Library of Congress), which does not release them to the taxpaying public that funded them. We thank the Federation of American Scientists' Government Secrecy Project for publishing them.

Congress Could Still Pass FOIA Reform

There is still a chance that Congress could pass legislation strengthening the Freedom of Information Act before it adjourns. The Senate Judiciary Committee approved a fix-FOIA bill (S 2520) November 20, 2014, setting up the possibility of full-Senate floor action. The Society of Environmental Journalists has urged Congress and the President to support such legislation.

Free Speech for Science Advisors? EPA Loosens the Leash

EPA has issued a "clarification" of its SAB scientist-muzzling policy, which acknowledges that SAB members are free to talk to reporters — mostly — as long as they are speaking for themselves. Still, the Society of Professional Journalists wrote EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy December 1 declaring their dissatisfaction with the clarification.

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