A disturbing story of poor chemical company compliance with environmental and safety rules was released October 22, 2015, by a watchdog group. It could have — and perhaps should have — been done by a news publication. And it shows the use journalists could make of several key databases.
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The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has for years suppressed full disclosure of the National Inventory of Dams, once a key tool for journalists reporting on dam safety — or the government's failure to ensure it. Now that tool is back in the toolbox ... mostly.Region:
Access to water quality data was an issue at one highly politicized House hearing on the August 5, 2015, toxic spill from a long-abandoned mine near Silverton, Colorado, where New Mexico Secretary of Environment Ryan Flynn accused EPA of refusing for weeks to share data on the quality of waters fouled by the spill.
You'd think there shouldn't be such a thing as a secret oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Earlier this year, the Associated Press uncovered an offshore well in the Gulf that had been leaking for a decade. Now — thanks to a lawsuit from environmentalists — the details will be revealed.Topics on the Beat:
CAMEO is a free and publicly available suite of applications useful to reporters. Developed by the U.S. EPA and NOAA, it includes information about the hazards of various chemicals, as well as map overlays that may show how close a spill site is to the nearest facility of interest, such as a nursery school or retirement home.
A Maryland state judge this month ordered a state agency to give news media routing information about oil trains within Maryland — adding momentum to efforts to warn firefighters and communities about dangers they face. Photo: 2013 Lac Megantic, Quebec, disaster, by Elias Schewel/Flickr.
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If you want to know whether an oil train is going by your community, just go down to the railroad tracks and watch for it. But don't ask the railroad or the state. In many cases, they don't think you can be trusted with this secret.
EPA's Plan, approved back on January 15, 2009, mandates giving "understandable, timely, accurate, and consistent information to the public." The plan laudably emphasizes coordination with other agencies — but it also leads to strong message control.