WatchDog TipSheet

Is Your Audience in an Oil Train Blast Zone?

After a February 16, 2015, oil train derailment and explosion in West Virginia, new concerns have arisen over the public's right to know about the dangers oil trains pose to communities. Now trackside communities have some data and maps to help them protect themselves. Image: AP Photo/ Office of the Governor of West Virginia, Steven Wayne Rotsch.

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CRS Reports No Longer Secret, Thanks to FAS Secrecy Project

Congress keeps secret the top-notch nonpartisan explainers from the Congressional Research Service. Or tries to. Thanks to the Federation of American Scientists' Government Secrecy Project, you can read the reports your tax dollars paid for below.

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Legislators from Both Parties Move FOIA Bills Despite Bank Lobby, FTC

The Senate Judiciary Committee, despite changing from Democrat to Republican control, unanimously approved a FOIA bill (S 337) on February 5, 2015. A similar House bill (HR 653) was introduced February 2 and awaits action by the Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

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State Department Hunkers in Secrecy Bunker over Keystone XL

Is the State Department review of whether to permit the Keystone XL pipeline transparent? Not at all. State spokesperson Jen Psaki stiff-armed the Associated Press' Matt Lee February 3, 2015, when he asked whether all eight agencies invited to comment had done so.

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Journalism Groups Oppose Photo Fees and Permits in Va. Local Parks

A coalition of journalism and photography groups, including SEJ, objected to requirements for permits and fees for photography in the public parks of Fairfax County, Virginia, a suburb of Washington, DC. In a February 4, 2015, letter to the Fairfax County Park Authority (FCPA), the 14 groups asked the agency to revise its rules to protect photojournalists' First Amendment rights.

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Canadian Public Not Allowed To Know Kinder Morgan Pipeline Emergency Plan

The expansion of the Trans Mountain Pipeline in Canada by the multibillion-dollar Houston firm Kinder Morgan is, to say the least, controversial. So it did not help instill public confidence when Canada's National Energy Board on Jan 16, 2015, ruled that Kinder Morgan did not have to make public its emergency response plans for spills and fires.

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With Environmental Rules at Stake, Dark Money Set To Flood 2016 U.S. Elections

Are megabucks from fossil fuels and other big industries corrupting the election of federal government officials? The U.S. public has little chance of knowing under current rules that are bringing "dark money" to ascendancy in American politics.

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Local Authority Slaps Permits, Fees on Photography in Parks

Professional photojournalists may again be facing unconstitutional requirements for permits to work in public parks — this time at the county level in a well-heeled District of Columbia suburb. But Virginia's Fairfax County Park Authority is encountering pushback as they conduct an annual review of their fee policies at various park units.

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More Secret Reports from Congressional Research Service

Nobody has ever explained why Congress refuses to release the tax-funded explainers produced by the Congressional Research Service. They are a gold standard for journalists needing quick background. Here are some recent CRS reports relevant to environmental journalists, helpfully released by the Federation of American Scientists.

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