WatchDog TipSheet

Words Versus Deeds: Obama's National Action Plan for Openness

On October 31, 2013, the White House issued a preview of its "Second Open Government National Action Plan," outlining some steps it hopes to take toward more transparent government. Is it a new direction for an administration whose words on openness have often not been matched by deeds — or a misdirection?

Toolbox: Data Resources for Dams, Impoundments, and Levees

A key set of tools for reporters probing dam issues at any level, local to national, are the available databases on various kinds of dams, levees, and impoundments. The WatchDog in this issue presents a special "Reporters' Toolbox" on these data sets. We hope at least to help reporters find and access them.

Dams and Levees: What You Don't Know Might Kill You

Tens of thousands of U.S. citizens are at risk from potential dam disasters, yet state and federal agencies hold to a policy that amounts to "out of sight, out of mind." The biggest danger, apparently, is that the public might find out about the dangers, and criticize insufficient dam safety measures, inconvenience private dam owners, depress real estate values, or demand public spending that is politically painful for those in office.

Dams and Levees: Introduction

This special issue of the WatchDog focuses on the transparency of safety information related to dams, levees, impoundments, and related water-control structures. For environmental journalists, these subjects offer a goldmine of great story possibilities. These are stories that have not been covered much in the past decade, and stories that fit well at the local, state, or regional level.

Improvement Iffy, Slow on Obama Administration's Openness Report Card

OpenTheGovernment.org publishes an annual report on quantifying government secrecy with specific numeric indicators. This year it began with a bombshell statement — saying it could not really guarantee all of its numbers because nobody could any longer trust what the US government tells its citizens in this area.

EPA Settles Court Bid To Keep Luminant Pollution Data "Confidential" (Cough, Cough)

A U.S. district judge on October 2, 2013, brushed aside claims by EPA and the Luminant Corp. that information related to pollution from the company's coal-burning power plants was "confidential business information" — which seems to be a growing excuse for withholding public-interest information.

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