What's in that derailed railcar or overturned tanker truck? The answer is often visible on a hazmat placard affixed to the vehicle (we suggest binoculars). The placard often includes a "UN number" which you can look up in the "Hazardous Materials Table" published in the Code of Federal Regulations, among other places.
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If your local utility burns coal, there is likely an environmental story about coal ash to be reported near you. A FOIA request by the Environmental Integrity Project and Earthjustice has produced the identities of another 451 coal ash dumps (than previously listed by EPA), raising the total to at least 1161.
A federal judge has denied BP's bid to see 21 e-mails and other documents sent between the White House and other federal agencies. More chilling, perhaps, was BP's effort to get e-mails sent by two private-sector scientists in an apparent effort to discredit their work.
The federal Data.gov, while not perfect, has grown over three years especially strong in datasets from federal agencies that deal with the environment, energy, natural resources, health, and science. Many of them are downloadable, so that you can crunch them on your own computer. Several are map layers or geo-tagged in some way. See a few randomly chosen examples here.Topics on the Beat:
After complaints from BP, the US government agreed to give the company evidence of the basis for its calculation of the flow rate from the stricken Deepwater Horizon well in the Gulf of Mexico. The government will hand over to BP some 100 documents about the size of the 2010 oil spill that have not yet been made public.Topics on the Beat:
The Right-To-Know Network has been around since 1989. Today, with a modern and searchable Web interface, it offers access to some data that reporters would be hard put to find anywhere else. Most important is its collection of Risk Management Plans — which chemical plants are required to maintain to prevent, prepare for, and respond to toxic disasters.
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A landmark Supreme Court decision awarded Port Townsend residents the right to know about the potential location of explosives on the Indian Island Naval Magazine near their town. After losing the case, the Defense Department bolstered its legal grounds for secrecy by asking Congress to slip into the 2012 Defense Authorization an amendment creating a new statutory exemption to FOIA for the DOD.Region:
A federal judge ruled that once the documents — depositions of US Forest Service employees about a 2007 forest fire in California that burned tens of thousands of acres — had been entered into court records as part of the evidence discovery process, they were presumptively public records and had to remain that way.Region:
Internal BP corporate memos dating back to the April 2010 Deepwater Horizon blowout show that the company was concerned about a spill rate much higher than what it publicly estimated at the time. The memos were released as part of federal court proceedings.Topics on the Beat: