WatchDog TipSheet

SEJ FOI Chair Talks to Forest Service Chief Tidwell

After proposing a directive that seemed to require permits and fees for journalists working in U.S. Forest Service wilderness lands, the USFS announced that it had never intended the restrictions to apply to journalists. Tim Wheeler, chairman of the Society of Environmental Journalists' Freedom of Information Task Force, talked with USFS Chief TomTidwell to clarify the USFS position. Here's his report.

Pipeline Data, Maps Could Be a Reporting Resource — If Open

There are many good investigative stories to be done about natural gas pipelines in your local area. You can get some maps and data about these pipelines if you try. Hard. The government is not going to help too much. One resource is the National Pipeline Mapping System (NPMS), which allows the general public to see geodata on a county-by-county basis.

Constitution Wins After Court Imposes Prior Restraint on Pipeline Safety Info

As a nationwide newspaper chain probed safety threats posed to the public by gas pipelines, an Alabama court imposed prior restraint on the Montgomery Advertiser, to prevent it from publishing the Alabama Gas Corporation's safety plan, citing homeland security and trade secrets. Now a judge has ruled that the court erred in granting a temporary restraining order.

Interior Coal Lease Data Not Available Online

You — as an owner (one of 314 million) of the coal reserves on federal land — might want to know whether the Bureau of Land Management is getting a fair return for your property when it is sold to a coal company. Good luck with that. Certainly, there is a database of federal coal lease activity. It's just that you would have a really hard time getting to it.

Firm Seeks To Silence Fracking Pollution Concerns with Defamation Suit

The video of Steve Lipsky setting his drinking water on fire nearly went viral on You Tube. The fracking company he thinks caused the problem is suing him for defamation. Now that case is headed for the Texas Supreme Court. Oral arguments are scheduled for December 4.

White House Nears Decision Shielding Frack Chem Disclosure

BLM has drafted a "final" rule — but that must be approved by the White House Office of Management and Budget, which often serves as a backroom channel for industry to change regulations. The final product — still undetermined — is likely to be a disappointment to those who had hoped for Obama administration leadership on fracking disclosure.

Congress Doesn't Want You To Read These Reports

More evidence of Congress' ineffectiveness comes in its ongoing failure to keep its secrets actually secret. Its official policy is to keep the Congressional Research Service from publicly releasing the handy explainers it produces at taxpayer expense. Thanks again to the Federation of American Scientists' Government Secrecy Project for unauthorized publication of these reports.

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