WatchDog TipSheet

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.

Report Lists State Open Data Policies and Portals

The federal government offers a launch pad for a range of journalistic projects, giving you one-click shopping for online state data portals where they exist. These portals bring together links to data from multiple agencies in a single state. Now, the nonprofit Center for Data Innovation has catalogued and rated state open-data policies.

Shouldn't "Trade Secrets" Face a Sunset in Interests of Public Health?

One of the oldest tricks U.S. industry has used to hide the potential harm to public health done by chemicals it puts into the environment is to claim that their identities are trade secrets via a loophole established under the antiquated Toxic Substance Control Act of 1976. On August 21st, a coalition of groups petitioned EPA for toxic trade secrets to have an expiration date.

EPA Promises to Look into Muzzling of Advisory Panel Scientists

In an August 15 email, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Chief of Staff Gwendolyn Keyes Fleming said EPA Science Advisor Bob Kavlock would review complaints from journalism (including SEJ) and open-government groups that scientists on EPA advisory panels were being told not to answer news-media or congressional inquiries without permission.

States Hide Safety Failures Over Routing Data on Crude Oil Trains

Just over a year after an oil-train explosion in Quebec killed 47 people, information on the threats oil trains present to public safety is starting to seep through a long blackout in which railroads convinced pliable federal regulators that the public was better off not knowing. Journalists from the AP and McClatchy FOIA'd information loose from Amtrak on Maryland and Pennsylvania, two of the states that have been reluctant to disclose.

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