WatchDog TipSheet

Scientist Says USDA Used Press Office To Silence Him

Scientist Jonathan Lundgren (left), who has been researching the effects of neonicotinoid pesticides on Monarch butterflies, filed a whistleblower complaint and lost. And, Lundgren claimed his supervisors at the USDA's Agricultural Research Service told him not to talk to news media and punished him when he did.

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Congressional Research Service Reports of Use to Environmental Journos

The reports aren't released to the taxpayers who funded them but the Federation of American Scientists' Government Secrecy Project publishes leaked copies. Here are 17 of the latest, from air to water, food to fuel, and much more.

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EPA Grants and Contracts Databases Offer Gumshoes Eye on Agency

Grants and contracts are a key way that the agency extends the reach of its work into the world beyond agency offices. They may include an engineering project to clean up a Superfund site, an environmental education and outreach program, snow-plowing agency parking lots, expert studies, and computer services.

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Maine Law Hid Threats to Public from Oil Trains

Maine passed a law in 2015 that allowed railroads to keep oil-train routing information from the public — over the governor's veto. In the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting's Pine Tree Watchdog, Dave Sherwood reports how the provision was a bait-and-switch.

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Failure to Disclose Lead Threats in Drinking Water: Widespread Problem

Bad as it is, the Flint drinking water disaster is hardly uncommon. Even though the law requires authorities to tell the public of dangerous levels of lead in drinking water, they often don't.

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Sunshine Week Starts March 13; FOIA Turning Fifty

Not everybody loves freedom of information. Those who do celebrate "Sunshine Week" annually in hopes of educating the public about why they need to know what their governments are up to. This year, Sunshine Week will get extra oomph from the fact that the Freedom of Information Act is turning 50 years old.

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Group Issues Data Map Showing Poor, Minorities Face More Toxic Risks

Based on a variety of data sources, the Center for Effective Government's new map and database shows that "people of color and poor residents are significantly more likely to live near dangerous chemical facilities than white and non-poor residents" in the U.S.

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EPA Releases Latest Toxics Release Inventory — a Key Tool for Journos

The database, which covers a list of some 689 toxic chemicals, includes self-reported information about dangerous chemicals handled and released at industrial facilities during 2014, the latest year for which data is available. Companies reported the 2014 totals in mid-2015.

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Flint Hearing Raises Freedom of Information Concerns

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's openness has been a major issue throughout the crisis of contaminated drinking water in Flint, which has caused lead poisoning of some children. One aspect of the openness issue is the ability of agency employees to speak with journalists; another is unfulfilled FOIA requests.

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Colorado River Portal Offers Data Tool for Environmental Journalists

Water may be for fighting over, but water data is worth cheering about. A new Interior Department data portal may help journalists cover the ever-critical issue of water shortage and surplus in the Colorado River basin and nationwide.

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