WatchDog TipSheet

Coast Guard Spill Database Rendered Almost Useless for Reporters

There used to be a searchable, online database of oil and chemical spill reports that reporters could turn to in an emergency to get insight into important breaking news. But ham-handed security efforts have sabotaged the public's right to know. Right now, emergency responders are working on a spill of a cancer-causing fuel additive known as MTBE. But news reporters probably couldn't get much if any helpful information from the database today (we checked).

FOIA-Strengthening Bills Come Back to Life in House and Senate

A bill to strengthen the Freedom of Information Act awaits Senate floor action. But the Obama administration, which once pledged to be the most open in history, has so far been strangely silent. Crickets. "Worries from the agencies are whispered into lawmakers' ears," wrote E&E Publishing's Kevin Bogardus.

Media Coalition Wins Overturn of Blankenship Gag Order on Appeal

After opposing gag and sealing orders in the trial of former Massey coal CEO Don Blankenship on charges of conspiracy to violate federal mine safety and health standards — and cover-up — a news media coalition led by Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press won access to the trial from a federal appeals court March 5, 2015.

News Media Coalition Appeals Gag Orders in Blankenship Case

After a judge refused to reverse most of the secrecy ruling around the 2010 Upper Big Branch mine disaster caused by Massey Energy's safety violations, including indictment of the company's former CEO, media outlets appealed. Now a coalition of many more media groups, led by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, have filed a friend-of-the-court brief opposing the secrecy ruling as unconstitutional.

Groups FOIA Federal Rules for Allowing Petroleum Export Ban Exceptions

For decades, U.S. politicians have made energy independence a patriotic platitude — with one result being a ban on exporting crude oil produced in the U.S. Now some oil companies are getting exceptions to the export ban for a product called "condensate," and the Commerce Department won't say why. So a coalition of environmental groups have filed a Freedom of Information Act request to find out.

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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