WatchDog TipSheet

State Judge Orders Disclosure of Maryland Oil Train Data

A Maryland state judge this month ordered a state agency to give news media routing information about oil trains within Maryland — adding momentum to efforts to warn firefighters and communities about dangers they face. Photo: 2013 Lac Megantic, Quebec, disaster, by Elias Schewel/Flickr.

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Lustgarten Says Data on Who Gets Ag Subsidies Is Rare as Hens' Teeth

Abrahm Lustgarten (left) wrote a nine-part series delving into farm subsidies and water policy. But his efforts to get the actual names of farm subsidy recipients or individual water users were largely thwarted. Read how info flows less quickly to the public than money and water flow to farmers in SPJ's FOI blog. Photo credit: Lars Klove.

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Still Interested? Some Feds Hope You Will Give Up on FOIA Requests

Federal agencies sometimes wait years to respond to Freedom of Information Act requests, then ask if they are still interested in receiving the requested information. Now the Justice Department's Office of Information Policy has issued an official "guidance" that frowns slightly on overuse of the "still interested?" practice.

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Federal Judge Strikes Down Idaho "Ag-Gag" Law as Unconstitutional

"The facts show the state's purpose in enacting the statute was to protect industrial animal agriculture by silencing its critics," district Judge B. Lynn Winmill wrote. Sometimes investigative journalists need to go undercover. And sometimes muckraking journalists need undercover whistleblowers to tip them to abuses.

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53 Journalism Groups Ask Obama To End Press Office Blockades

SEJ, which has complained about press-office restrictions for years, joined over 50 other journalism groups in signing an Aug 10, 2015 letter requesting government transparency — again. The groups had sent a letter to the White House in July 2014, a followup in Aug 2014, resulting in a non-response response from the WH later that month.

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Are Health Warnings on Soda Unconstitutional? Industry Says Yes

The American Beverage Association, California State Outdoor Advertising Association and California Retailers Association sued San Francisco for requiring health warnings on advertisements for certain sugary beverages when posted on city property, saying it violates their First Amendment rights.

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Filming in Parks and Forests: The Alaskan Angle

Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski (pictured) has proposed a bill that would (among other things) set a flat $200 annual fee to permit unlimited shooting by small film crews. Now E&E Daily reports Murkowski's filmmaker nephew faced the fees-and-permits barrier when he wanted to shoot near her father's home, surrounded by the Tongass National Forest.

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Railroads Still Don't Want Public To Know Oil Train Danger

If you want to know whether an oil train is going by your community, just go down to the railroad tracks and watch for it. But don't ask the railroad or the state. In many cases, they don't think you can be trusted with this secret.

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EPA Crisis Communications Plan: Accurate, Timely, Approved Information

EPA's Plan, approved back on January 15, 2009, mandates giving "understandable, timely, accurate, and consistent information to the public." The plan laudably emphasizes coordination with other agencies — but it also leads to strong message control.

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Secret Congressional Background Reports Leak Again; Debate Continues

Here are some recently leaked CRS reports of relevance to environmental journalists, as well as the latest on the debate following the NYT editorial calling for the reports to be made public.

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