WatchDog TipSheet

Did EPA Press Office Retaliate for Unfavorable NY Times Article?

It appears to an outside observer that NYT reporter Coral Davenport was uninvited to EPA's "Waters of the U.S." (WOTUS) rule announcement phone call as retaliation for an unfavorable story she had written about the agency's public affairs operation the week before. EPA says not.

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House Insists Congressional Research Service Reports Be Secret

It's not a mistake. Congress really doesn't want you to read those excellent explainers on public issues produced by experts at the Congressional Research Service (CRS). We know this because a House Appropriations subcommittee specifically restated that CRS was not to publish its reports.

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What You're Not Supposed To Know About Secret Environmental Treaty

The public is not allowed to know the terms of the draft Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade pact likely to come up for a Senate vote this year. Yet the Senate has already begun voting on terms for considering the treaty, which may allow other nations to override U.S. health, safety, and environmental protection laws. Fortunately, WikiLeaks has already published a leaked version of the environmental chapter of the TPP treaty.

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Is Wyoming Ban on Reporting Environmental Harm Unconstitutional?

A newly enacted Wyoming law seems to be aimed at criminalizing the collection and reporting of stream pollution or other environmental harm. It creates a unique new category of crime called "data trespass." Just what the law, signed in March by Gov. Matt Mead (R), means or does is being debated hotly.

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Do Firefighters Have a Right To Know About Hazmats They Face? Do You?

The watchdog group Center for Effective Government offers data tools that partly offset government failures to protect people from dangerous materials that poison or injure people, burn, or explode. They are also tools for journalists trying to inform their communities.

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Need to Know? Eight Reports from the Congressional Research Service

Congress does not release reports done by the Congressional Research Service to the public, even though taxpayers fund them. Thanks to the Federation of American Scientists' Government Secrecy Project, you can read them anyway.

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Americans Can't Know Whether Chemicals in Products They Use Are Unsafe

As Congress limps toward revisions of the badly broken Toxic Substances Control Act, it's clear that only a small fraction of the roughly 84,000 chemicals in commerce in the U.S. have actually been tested for health effects. Now an environmental health group has rated some household cleaning products firms.

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New Oil Train Regs Go Backward on Public's Right to Know Risks

Since U.S. oil production started booming, the news has been full of tanker trains blowing up. Under a May 2014 emergency order, the Federal Railway Administration increased requirements that railroads disclose oil train routes. But a new regulation issued May 1, 2015, leaves the public — and firefighters — with less information about the risks they face. Photo: The latest oil train derailment and explosion, today, in ND/Curt Bemson via AP.

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Despite FOIA, EPA Press Policy Remains a Puzzle Palace

In response to the WatchDog's request for the U.S. EPA's press policy, EPA seems to be saying that it doesn't have one. Or that paradoxically EPA staff can talk to reporters but are forbidden to talk to reporters. Or that EPA does not respond to requests for information. Even though the WatchDog finally got a partial response to its June 10, 2014, FOIA request for EPA policies on news media access to EPA employees on April 29, 2015, nothing was revealed. Puzzled? So are we.

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Florida Employee Sues over Right To Use "C-Word" (Climate)

Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), representing Florida Department of Environmental Protection employee Barton Bibler, is calling for an investigation by the DEP's Inspector General into whether the term "climate change" is actually forbidden to be used by state employees — and whether this violates Florida's open government law.

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