WatchDog TipSheet

PHMSA Won't Disclose Restart Plan for Arkansas Pegasus Pipeline

Exxon had said it was planning to restart the aging pipeline — which was given to seam ruptures — by the end of March. But the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration has so far refused requests to make public the restart plan. Elizabeth Douglass wrote about PHMSA's secrecy in InsideClimate News. Photo: The Pegasus pipeline, exposed and suspended in Houston County, 7 miles NW of Crockett, TX, in May 2013. Credit: Safe Community Alliance.

OIRA Actually Makes Searching for Secret Meetings Easier

For years, under multiple administrations, White House officials have subverted open government by holding illegal "ex parte" meetings with special interests affected by agency rulemakings. The meetings are still secret but now they have made the existing online database of meetings and calls searchable by agency, sub-agency, date range, stage of rulemaking, and regulatory identifier. The catch? You can only search for meetings that happened AFTER April 1, 2014.

SEJ Objects to Illegal Military Police Treatment of Toledo Blade Journalists

In a strongly worded April 9, 2014, letter by SEJ Executive Director Beth Parke and SEJ WatchDog Project Director Joseph A. Davis, SEJ urged Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to apologize to the Toledo Blade and direct military employees not to let such illegal actions happen again: Blade journalists Jetta Fraser and Tyrel Linkhorn were detained March 28, 2014 by military police in a public area outside the Joint Systems Manufacturing Center in Lima, Ohio. Fraser was held in handcuffs, and military police threatened sexual violence against her.

Capitol Officials Call Reporter's Detention "Isolated", Apologize

U.S. Capitol officials apologized for the brief detention March 28, 2014, of BNA energy reporter Ari Natter, effectively conceding that such incidents should not occur. Apologies came from both Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Terry Gainer and Capitol Police Chief Kim C. Dine in separate e-mail responses to an April 8 letter of complaint  from SEJ.

UPDATE: Capitol Police Chief Responds to SEJ Letter

Capitol Police Chief Kim C. Dine responded April 10, 2014, to SEJ's letter complaining about the brief detention of BNA energy reporter Ari Natter on March 28. In an e-mail, Dine said: "some of the most important things we do is protect the rights of citizens to express  themselves and protect the freedom of the press as we go about our duties protecting and serving the legislative process."

UPDATE: SEJ "Condemns" Military Treatment of Blade Reporters

The Society of Environmental Journalists has written Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, condemning "in the strongest terms" the treatment of two Toledo Blade journalists March 28 by military police outside a Lima, Ohio, tank plant. The journalists were on public property when they were detained by military police. Photographer Jetta Fraser's camera was confiscated, even though she was taking pictures of what was in plain public view.

Wyoming Supreme Court Doubts 'Trade Secret' Loophole on Fracking Disclosure

Just claiming something as "confidential business information" is not enough. Wyoming's Supreme Court said the state's drillers, and state regulators, bear the burden of showing why they are withholding disclosure of the often-toxic chemicals pumped underground in fracking operations.

Kentucky Legislature Weighs "Ag-Gag" Bill

Kentucky is the latest state to consider legislation criminalizing undercover photography of animal abuse in farm operations, which often ends up in the news. But Democratic Rep. Joni Jenkins (pictured), who sponsored the measure to which the Senate attached the Ag-Gag language, says she won't call it up in the House.

NO QUESTIONS: Hill Reporter Detained After Questioning McCarthy

For decades reporters have staked out doorways in the U.S. Capitol in hopes of shouting questions at emerging bigwigs. But last week Bloomberg BNA energy reporter Ari Natter, trying to question EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, was briefly detained by Capitol Police. McCarthy declined to answer his question.

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