Information on SEJ's actions advocating access to environmental information from 2010 to the present 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).
November 18, 2015
SEJ Again Opposes "Commercial Fees" for Journalists on Public Lands
After journalism groups protested federal rules imposing fees and permits on journalists working on public lands, the Senate Energy Committee November 19 approved a bill that would exempt newsgathering. By voice vote, the panel first approved an amendment containing the exemption, and then approved the underlying bill, S. 556, known as Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act of 2015.
- Text of the SEJ's November 18, 2015, letter to the U.S. Committee on Energy & Natural Resources. 
- See also: SEJ story of November 19, 2015. 
Aug 10, 2015
SEJ Asks Obama To End Press Office Blockades
SEJ, which has complained about press-office restrictions for years, joined over 50 other journalism groups in signing yet another letter requesting government transparency. The groups had sent a letter to the White House in July 2014, a followup in Aug 2014, resulting in a non-response response from the WH later that month.
- Text of journalism groups' August 10, 2015, letter to President Obama. 
- "More Than 50 Journalism Groups Again Urge President Obama To Stop Excessive Controls on Public Information,"  Society of Professional Journalists release, Aug 11, 2015.
- See also: SEJ WatchDog of Aug 12, 2015. 
- "Sentinel Editor Joins in Pressing Obama on Transparency,"  TucsonSentinel.com, Aug 11, 2015, by Dylan Smith.
- "Obama Falls Short of Promise for Transparency, Journalists Say,"  Bloomberg News, Aug 12, 2015, by Justin Sink.
- "Obama Must Stop Excessive Media Control,"  The Rock River Times, Aug 12, 2015, by Shane Nicholson.
- "EPA Press Office Blockades Protested,"  Watchdog Earth blog (The Courier Journal), Aug 13, 2015, by James Bruggers.
- "President Obama Asked for More Transparency in Government,"  Sun Investigates blog (The Baltimore Sun), Aug 15, 2015, by Catherine Rentz.
June 30, 2015
SEJ Urges Agency Openness During National Spill Crises
At the Spills of National Significance (SONS) Draft Communications Strategy forum on June 8, and in a June 30 letter, SEJ urged SONS communicators to release data fully and promptly, to acknowledge uncertainties and gaps, and to give journalists good access to officials, experts and places.
- Text of the SEJ's June 30, 2015, letter to SONS communications strategy drafters. 
- See also: SEJ WatchDog of July 1, 2015. 
April 2, 2015
SEJ Appeals EPA Stonewalling of FOIA on Media Policy
The U.S. EPA has been stonewalling a June 2014 SEJ request for documents describing its policies for dealing with news media. Now SEJ is appealing the long delay in responding to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request by calling it what it is — a denial of information.
- Text of the SEJ's April 2, 2015, FOIA appeal letter. 
- See also: SEJ WatchDog of April 2, 2015. 
February 4, 2015
SEJ Opposes Photo Fees and Permits in Va. Parks
The Society of Environmental Journalists and 13 other groups objected to requirements for permits and fees for photography in the public parks of Fairfax County, Virginia. In a February 4, 2015, letter to the Fairfax County Park Authority (FCPA), the groups asked the agency to revise its rules to protect photojournalists' First Amendment rights.
- Text of the group's February 4, 2015, letter to Fairfax Co. Park Authority. 
- See also: SEJ WatchDog of February 11, 2015. 
December 3, 2014
SEJ Calls on Forest Service To Clarify Photo Permit Directives
The Society of Environmental Journalists joined a coalition of journalism groups calling on the U.S. Forest Service to make clear in its directives that journalists, documentarians, and media photographers do not need permits to take pictures in National Forest Wilderness or other public lands. The groups submitted formal comments recommending specific language in a Forest Service rulemaking on wilderness lands. But they urged the Forest Service to apply that language to all of its lands. The Society of Environmental Journalists was active in drafting the comments.
- Text of coalition comments submitted to USFS December 3, 2014. 
- See also: SEJ WatchDog of December 3, 2014. 
October 23, 2014
SEJ Urges Obama To Take Stand on Bipartisan FOIA Bills
The Society of Environmental Journalists wrote President Barack Obama October 23, 2014, urging him to take a strong position supporting legislation that would strengthen the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Bipartisan FOIA improvements may be one of the few pieces of legislation with a chance to clear the lame duck 113th Congress before control shifts to Republicans in 2015.
October 1, 2014
SEJ Opposes USFS "Commercial Filming" Permits
SEJ and seventeen journalism, photography, and First Amendment groups wrote U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell opposing the proposal to finalize a directive requiring permits for "commercial filming" in Forest Service Wilderness areas. Tidwell has already said the USFS does not want to restrict journalism on wilderness lands, but the groups seek changes to regulatory language that would make this clear.
- Text of the groups' October 1, 2014, letter. 
- See also: SEJ WatchDogs of October 2, 2014,  September 26, 2014  and September 24, 2014. 
September 26, 2014
SEJ FOI Chair Talks to Forest Service Chief Tidwell
After proposing a directive that seemed to require permits and fees for journalists working in U.S. Forest Service wilderness lands, the USFS announced that it had never intended the restrictions to apply to journalists. Tim Wheeler, chairman of the Society of Environmental Journalists' Freedom of Information Task Force,  talked with USFS Chief TomTidwell to clarify the USFS position. Here's his report  (SEJ WatchDog of September 26, 2014).
Coverage: "USFS schedules meetings to respond to concern over wilderness filming and photography permit proposal,"  The Olympian, November 5, 2014, by Craig Hill.
August 12, 2014
SEJ Protests EPA's Scientist "Don't Talk" Policy
An April 4, 2014 memo (not made public at the time) from EPA's chief of staff made clear that members of the agency's many science advisory panels are not to talk to the news media or Congress without permission. In an August 12th letter, SEJ was joined by SPJ, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, Investigative Reporters and Editors, the Union of Concerned Scientists' Center for Science and Democracy, the American Geophysical Union, and the Society for Conservation Biology in protesting the policy. The groups urged EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy "to clarify that members of the EPA Science Advisory Board (SAB) and the twenty other EPA science advisory committees have the right and are encouraged to speak to the public and the press about any scientific issues, including those before these committees, in a personal capacity without prior authorization from the agency."
- Text of the August 12, 2014, letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. 
- Memo of April 4, 2014, from EPA Chief of Staff Gwendolyn Keyes Fleming to Science Advisory Board Director and Chairman. 
- See also: SEJ WatchDogs of August 13, 2014  and August 27, 2014  (includes text of August 15 email from EPA Chief of Staff Gwendolyn Keyes Fleming in response to the August 12, 2014 group letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy).
SEJ, SPJ and 36 other journalism groups wrote a letter July 8, 2014, calling on President Obama to stop the excessive controls and political spin of information at many federal agencies. The groups wrote, "We ask that you issue a clear directive telling federal employees they're not only free to answer questions from reporters and the public, but actually encouraged to do so. We believe that is one of the most important things you can do for the nation now, before the policies become even more entrenched."
- Text of the July 8, 2014, letter to President Barack Obama from the 38 journalism groups. 
- Release. 
- See also: SEJ WatchDogs of July 17, 2014,  August 13, 2014  (includes links to the White House's "non-response" response finally received August 11th, following the group's Aug 5 follow-up letter, plus SPJ's response thereto).
June 5, 2014
SEJ Objects to EPA "No Attribution" Presser
The Society of Environmental Journalists has objected to the Environmental Protection Agency's "no attribution" ground rule for a press teleconference that was part of its June 2, 2014, roll-out of its carbon emissions rule for existing power plants. The background briefing — which supplemented Administrator Gina McCarthy's on-record statement — made questions difficult on this complex rule.
- Text of SEJ's June 5, 2014, letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. 
- Text of EPA's June 10 response to SEJ's letter. 
- See also: SEJ WatchDog of June 11, 2014. 
- Text of SEJ's June 12 reply  to EPA's June 10 justification of its "no attribution" press phone briefing on June 2.
- "Journalists to EPA: No More Anonymous Conference Calls,"  Washington Free Beacon, June 10, 2014 by CJ Ciaramella.
- "Green Journos Seeing Red Over EPA’s Climate Rule Roll-Out,"  The Daily Caller, June 10, 2014 by Michael Bastasch.
- "The EPA goes on background, and journalists revolt,"  The Observatory blog, Columbia Journalism Review, June 12, 2014, by Alexis Sobel Fitts.
- "Stunned by press rules for powerplant regs briefing, Soc'y of Enviro Journalists tells EPA to cut it out,"  Tracker blog, Knight Science Journalism Program at MIT, June 12, 2014 by Charlie Petit.
April 9, 2014
SEJ "Condemns" Military Treatment of Blade Reporters
SEJ sent a letter to 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. Fraser was held in handcuffs, and military police threatened sexual violence against her.
- Text of SEJ's April 9, 2014, letter to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. 
- See also: SEJ WatchDogs of April 8  and April 16, 2014. 
April 8, 2014
SEJ Objects to Capitol Police Detention of Energy Reporter
SEJ sent a letter to U.S. Capitol authorities objecting to the March 28, 2014 incident in which Bloomberg BNA reporter Ari Natter was briefly detained by a Capitol Police officer in the hallway of the Russell Senate Office Building. Natter was trying to ask a question of EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy at the time. The letter was sent to Terrance W. Gainer, Senate Sergeant-at-Arms, and others. Gainer oversees the Capitol Police.
- Text of SEJ's April 8, 2014, letter to Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Terrance W. Gainer and others. 
- See also: SEJ WatchDog of April 2, 2014. 
- "Capitol Officials Call Reporter's Detention 'Isolated', Apologize,"  SEJ WatchDog, April 16, 2014. Apologies were received from both Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Terry Gainer and Capitol Police Chief Kim C. Dine in separate e-mail responses.
March 18, 2014
SEJ Wants To Know Who's in Charge at EPA
EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy has said she wants to run an open agency. So why do reporters have to wait days — or weeks — to talk to agency sources after they call the press office? As 300,000 residents of Charleston, WV, faced a drinking water crisis in January 2014, it took EPA a week to find an official who could talk to the Charleston Gazette. EPA is supposed to be the main federal agency responsible for enforcing the Safe Drinking Water Act. SEJ executive director Beth Parke and Joseph Davis, director of the SEJ WatchDog Project, write an op-ed looking for answers.
- "Open Agency? Who's Running EPA?"  Society of Environmental Journalists, March 18, 2014, by Beth Parke and Joseph A. Davis.
- See also: SEJ WatchDog of March 21, 2014. 
Journalists had trouble overcoming EPA and CDC press office obstacles and getting access to agency experts and officials during this month's drinking water contamination crisis in Charleston, WV. SEJ and the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) sent a letter of complaint on January 20, 2014 to heads of both agencies and their press offices, urging them to adopt specific practices to end press office stonewalling and increase transparency, especially in times of crisis.
- "SEJ, SPJ Say Agency Media Obstacles Hurt Public Confidence in Water, Safety,"  Society of Environmental Journalists, January 21, 2014. This article includes a link to the full text of SEJ's January 20 letter to EPA and CDC.
- See also: SEJ WatchDog of January 22, 2014. 
- "CDC, EPA Respond to SEJ Complaints about Press Office Obstacles,"  WatchDog TipSheet, February 5, 2014.
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. 
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.
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. 
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. 
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 24, 2010
SEJ Comments on How To Make EPA More Open
SEJ has urged the US Environmental Protection Agency to open up its press-relations procedures and abandon Bush-era restrictions as a way of furthering President Obama's declared open-government goals. Under his "Open Government Initiative," President Obama ordered federal agencies to establish open-government web pages where agencies could solicit public input on how to improve openness. EPA solicits comments on its OpenGov page and OpenEPA/Share Your Ideas. SEJ, on behalf of its member environmental journalists, offered eight suggestions.
- Full story: SEJ WatchDog of March 24, 2010  (includes full text of SEJ's comments to EPA).
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. 
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.