SEJ Speaks on FOI Issues
Information on SEJ's 2010-12 actions advocating access to environmental information are listed below in reverse chronological order. Previous years are archived: 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003, and 2002 (the year SEJ's Freedom of Information Task Force was formed).
August 7, 2013
SEJ Calls CHP's Media Treatment "Unacceptable"
On July 23, 2013, the California Highway Patrol arrested Steve Eberhard, a photojournalist for the biweekly Willits News, allegedly for "trespassing" on the overpass construction site where protesters had chained themselves to construction equipment. SEJ wrote CHP's commissioner August 7, 2013, stating CHP's "treatment of the media at the CalTrans construction site in Willits, CA, is unacceptable" and "directly contravenes the right to gather news that derives from the First Amendment."
- Text of August 7, 2013, SEJ letter to California Highway Patrol Commissioner Joseph A. Farrow.
- See also: SEJ WatchDog of August 14, 2013.
May 14, 2013
SEJ Condemns DOJ for AP Phone Records Grab
SEJ strongly condemned the Department of Justice’s overly broad investigation of the Associated Press’ newsgathering operations as an infringement of First Amendment press freedoms. The DOJ secretly seized telephone records for more than 20 phone lines used by AP journalists and offices, including cell and home phone lines of more than 100 journalists, obtaining the names of sources and confidential information about the newsgathering operations.
- Text of May 14, 2013, SEJ letter to DOJ Attorney General Eric Holder (includes links to AP story, AP letter to Holder, full text of SEJ letter to Holder, RCFP media coalition letter to Holder, the story that started it all, and more).
- See also: SEJ WatchDog of May 22, 2013.
April 9, 2013
SEJ Objects to Threatened Arrest of Reporter at Ark. Oil Spill
The March 29, 2013, spill from ExxonMobil's Pegasus Pipeline near Mayflower, Arkansas is a big deal for several reasons. But the most important thing about the Mayflower spill may be that ExxonMobil and the federal agencies involved seemed to be trying to keep news media from getting close enough to see what is going on. SEJ protested the media treatment by Exxon, EPA, and PHMSA in the incident.
- Text of April 9, 2013, SEJ letter to EPA, PHMSA, local officials.
- Text of SEJ's response from the U.S. EPA, April 12, 2013.
- WatchDog of April 10, 2013.
- "InsideClimate News Reporter Threatened with Arrest at Ark. Oil Spill Site," InsideClimate News, April 5, 2013, by Susan White. Addendum (last paragraph of story): "On Thursday afternoon, Vela met Song and gave her a tour of the command center parking lot. He also allowed her to take photos at the edge of a nearby cleanup site. They were accompanied by an ExxonMobil spokesman." However, they would not permit Song to visit the site of the rupture, or the subdivision where it occurred.
April 9, 2013
SEJ Reiterates Need for Greater EPA Openness with the Media
As the Obama administration's secrecy and unresponsiveness to the media has escalated, and with Gina McCarthy's nomination to head the EPA facing confirmation, SEJ sent a statement to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee requesting they ask some hard questions and address this ongoing problem.
- "Will New EPA Head Open Agency to News Media?" SEJ, April 9, 2013 (long version of statement).
- Text of April 9, 2013, SEJ Letter to EPW Senators (short version of statement).
- WatchDog of April 10, 2013.
- "Comment on SEJ Statement Regarding More EPA Openness by ex-EPA Chief of Public Affairs," April 16, 2013, by Patrick Boyle.
- Report on SEJ's April 25, 2013, Meeting with EPA Press Office.
SEJ wrote US DOI Secretary Ken Salazar about the Election Day incident of intimidation in Colorado, when the Secretary threatened to "punch out" SEJ member Dave Philipps, senior investigative reporter with the Colorado Springs Gazette. Doing his job as a journalist (after unsuccessful attempts to contact Salazar through official channels), Philipps asked Salazar about the BLM wild horses issue, including sales to buyer Tom Davis, who is now under investigation for shipping the protected animals out of state in violation of brand inspection laws. In the letter, SEJ said "Such a threat was intemperate and uncalled for, and went well beyond the bounds of civil discourse. It disrespected the role of journalism and journalists in a democratic society, as well as their public audience." SEJ also connected the dots between the ongoing difficulty environmental journalists have gaining access to Obama administration officials and the necessity of posing their questions when the opportunity does arise.
- Text of November 15, 2012, SEJ letter to U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.
- "Buyer of Wild Horses Under Investigation by State, Feds," by Dave Philipps, Special to ProPublica, November 11, 2012.
- Audio of the Election Day incident, Colorado Springs Gazette, November 6, 2012.
- WatchDog of December 12, 2012.
September 25, 2012
SEJ Petitions Cambodia To Investigate Journalist's Murder
SEJ joined Internews' Earth Journalism Network in signing onto a letter/petition calling for an investigation into the murder this month of Cambodian journalist Hang Serei Oudom, a reporter with the local newspaper Vorakchun Khmer Daily. Oudom had reportedly been covering illegal logging activities. Details.
SEJ supported an amendment filed by Sen. Mark Begich (D-AK) and cosponsored by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) that would have required public disclosure of the identities of recipients of crop insurance subsidies. The amendment was never offered on the floor — after Senate leaders reached a deal on which of nearly 250 filed amendments would be offered. SEJ takes positions on freedom-of-information issues affecting environmental journalists through its Freedom of Information Task Force, under a long-standing mandate from the SEJ board of directors.
- Text of June 19, 2012, SEJ letter to the sponsors of the subsidy-disclosure amendment.
- Full story: WatchDog of June 27, 2012.
February 6, 2012
SEJ Condemns Ejection of Filmmaker from Energy & Environment Hearing
SEJ strongly objected to the ejection of Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Josh Fox from the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology’s Energy and Environment Subcommittee hearing concerning the Environmental Protection Agency’s policies and the enforcement of water quality issues surrounding natural gas drilling or "fracking." In a letter addressed to Honorable U.S. Representative Andy Harris, Chairman of the Energy and Environment Subcommittee of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, SEJ stated "Journalists come in all stripes, and documentary filmmakers have a long and storied history of informing the public about important policy matters, especially the sorts of environmental protection issues Mr. Fox covered in his film, 'Gasland.'"
- Text of February 6, 2012, SEJ letter to Rep Andy Harris, Chairman of the Energy and Environment Subcommittee of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology: MS Word or PDF.
- Full story: WatchDog of February 8, 2012.
January 27, 2012
SEJ Asks EPA To Return to Openness with Journalists
SEJ wrote to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, after a spate of unreturned phone calls and ignored emails, in an attempt to get the agency to resume quarterly conference calls to discuss access issues. The calls abruptly ended late last year after Adora Andy's departure from the agency. The letter also addressed the fact that "we continue to hear on an almost daily basis from SEJ members in a variety of news outlets that they get the run-around when trying to schedule interviews, gather basic information, or get answers to important questions for their stories. While it’s clear to us that members of the major, national media organizations have quality access to you and to top EPA insiders, our members who are working for small newspapers and radio stations or toiling away as freelancers are hit with repeated hurdles when they try to do their jobs."
- Text of January 27, 2012, SEJ letter to EPA: MS Word or PDF.
- Full story: WatchDog of February 8, 2012.
September 2, 2011
SEJ Calls for Improvement to EPA Science Policy
SEJ submitted formal comments to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on its draft Scientific Integrity Policy, dated Aug. 5, 2011. The letter stated "SEJ finds the proposed policy lacking in a number of important areas. It also falls short of what is needed to achieve EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson’s previously stated goal for transparency that 'promotes accountability and provides information for citizens about what their government is doing.'"
- Text of September 2, 2011, SEJ Comments to EPA: MS Word or PDF.
- Full story: SEJ's September 8, 2011, WatchDog.
August 19, 2011
SEJ Comments on "Unacceptable" NOAA Science Policy
In formal comments, SEJ stated that the section of NOAA guidance policy requiring advance public affairs approval of media interviews — and minders sitting in on those interviews — thwarts open communication between scientists and reporters, which is "unacceptable in a free society."
- Text of August 19, 2011, SEJ Comments to NOAA: MS Word or plain text.
- Full story: SEJ's August 24, 2011, WatchDog.
June 29, 2010
SEJ Urges NRC To Improve Openess
SEJ made some cogent suggestions to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission as part of an open-government exercise. One of the first suggestions was that NRC should lose the "minders" that babysit agency people while they talk to reporters. SEJ also asked that the NRC's press operation to do its job: keeping reporters and the public apprised of real news.
June 4, 2010
SEJ Writes USCG About Media Access on Gulf Coast
Following the Deep Horizon explosion in the Gulf of Mexico, SEJ sent a letter to U.S. Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen expressing deep concern that "journalists are being prevented from doing their Constitutionally protected jobs: to provide information to the public about the mammoth oil disaster playing out on the Gulf Coast."
- Text of June 4, 2010, SEJ Letter to Admiral Allen.
- More on media access issues in SEJ's June 16, 2010, WatchDog.
March 19, 2010
SEJ Urges Congress to Pass "Faster FOIA" Bill
SEJ wrote Congressional leaders expressing support for the bipartisan "Faster FOIA" bill introduced this week. The bill (S 3111) would establish an advisory panel to examine agency backlogs in processing FOIA requests — and make recommendations for faster processing and reduced backlogs. It was introduced by Sens. Patrick J. Leahy (D-VT) and John Cornyn (R-TX).
- Text of March 15, 2010, SEJ Letter on S 3111.
- Leahy-Cornyn Release of March 15, 2010.
- Text of "Faster FOIA" Bill.
February 24, 2010
SEJ Urges White House To Lose the "Minders"
SEJ wrote White House Communication Director Dan Pfeiffer asking for an end to the practice of requiring permission from the press office at federal agencies before reporters can talk to federal employees — and requiring Saddam-style PIO "minders" to sit in on interviews. More than a dozen other journalism groups have complained about the practice to the FDA and other agencies.
- Text of SEJ Letter of February 24, 2010: Word document (original format, on SEJ letterhead) or plain text file.
- Full story: WatchDog of February 24, 2010.