If you want to interview an EPA official about a drinking water pollution catastrophe or a controversy about air pollution from fracking, the press office may do its best to stop you. Examples abound. But, there are ways for journalists to push back. Read about them here.
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It's not like you can't figure these things out. Trains full of explosive crude oil, for example, may be obvious as a string of 100-odd identical black tankers rolls through populated areas. The number on the DOT-required diamond-shaped flammability placard on each car probably has the number 1257 on it. But it's not just crude oil that's an issue.
Federal data, though sometimes hard to get, can provide many local stories for environmental journalists. Case in point: AP and Climate Desk journalists got data from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management on high-risk oil and gas wells on federal and Indian lands from 2009 to 2012. Some 40 percent of the high-risk wells had not been inspected. BLM says it does not have enough inspectors. See AP's exposé and Climate Desk's map showing the counties with the most uninspected wells.
Should firefighters and residents know whether trains loaded with explosive oil are routed through the heart of residential districts? Many railroads say no, claiming it is a security issue. But on June 18, 2014, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) dismissed that claim, saying that oil train routing was not sensitive security information. Yet the railroads are fighting back.
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Local reporters can find information about coal-ash situations in their own areas using a newly improved database compiled by the Environmental Integrity Project which goes well beyond anything previously available because it includes large amounts of painstaking research by EIP. The site is important for its focus on contamination of groundwater that people may drink by the toxic heavy metals in coal combustion wastes.
ExxonMobil lost a bid to keep federal regulators and prosecutors from getting records which might show criminal negligence in its operation of the pipeline that spilled oil into the Arkansas community of Mayflower in March 2013. The judge also threw out Exxon's motion to dismiss a lawsuit against the company.
Amy Wold, a reporter with The Advocate in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, writes about coastal challenges facing the state, including coastal loss, restoration, economics, diversion, the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon disaster, BP settlements and the RESTORE Act, fisheries impacts — and why protecting and stabilizing Louisiana’s coastline is not just a local issue, but a national one. Image: Heavy machinery moves around sediment that has been piped in from the Mississippi River at a coastal restoration project in Plaquemines Parish in November 2013. © Amy Wold, The (Baton Rouge) Advocate.SEJ Publication Types:
Reporter Emily Atkin of the Climate Progress blog told recently of flying into Fort McMurray, Alberta to see the tar sands and being hassled for some 45 minutes by "security" officials because she was a journalist — including being told "We might have to send you back to the States."Region:
The agency is exploring some of its legal options for improving transparency about fracking fluid. One sign that EPA might be thinking of using its existing Clean Water Act legal authority came when the publication DeSmogBlog published on May 28 a leaked EPA draft suggesting it was considering doing precisely that.