U.S. EPA's refinement of ECHO's search engine for drinking water violations should make it possible for journalists to ask much more sophisticated and complex questions — but the usual caveats apply.
The vast coal seams below federally owned lands in the West are a resource owned by the American people as a whole — and when rights to mine them are sold to coal companies, it is supposed to be on terms that are in the public interest. So you'd think public scrutiny via open information would be a given. The Interior Department says not, recently denying a FOIA request for this information. Image: © Clipart.com.
UPDATE: The Society of Environmental Journalists (SEJ) on Oct 19, 2016 wrote law enforcement officials at the state and federal levels, objecting to prosecution of journalists who have been covering protests against the Dakota Access Pipe Line and other pipelines. The prosecutor who charged Democracy Now's Amy Goodman has responded to SEJ's letter.
The Federation of American Scientists' Project on Government Secrecy publishes leaked copies of Congressional Research Service research papers. Here are a few recent ones of use to environmental journalists.
A promising new resource has begun helping reporters trying to use the Freedom of Information Act to pry loose government information relevant to their stories. The "FOIA Wiki" is a collaborative and explanatory collection of information meant to help you.
Investigative journalism is hardly about paper documents anymore. The cutting edge today is more likely to be requests for emails, as well as text messages, chats and other electronic communications such as Slack. This big challenge was front and center at the recent meeting of the National Freedom of Information Coalition.
Patience, attention to detail, and public-records requests can still get you a bombshell story on the environmental beat. One recently tied coal and oil company megabucks to Republican attorneys general challenging the Clean Power Plan (CPP) in court.
Summer algal blooms, seafood advisories, and beach closures remind us that water pollution has not gone away, and environmental journalists can still find loads of local and regional stories about it — if they dig. Here's a tool that can help. Image: © Clipart.com.
In addition to nuisance smells, confined animal feeding operations (aka CAFOs) can present serious air and water pollution problems. They are weakly regulated. Now a federal appeals court says information on who owns those feedlots can be kept secret. Image: © Clipart.com.
Miami-Dade county had stiff-armed a request from the Herald for the information, and denied a FOIA request. The county claimed the information was exempt for public health reasons. Photo: © Clipart.com.