One of the oldest tricks U.S. industry has used to hide the potential harm to public health done by chemicals it puts into the environment is to claim that their identities are trade secrets via a loophole established under the antiquated Toxic Substance Control Act of 1976. On August 21st, a coalition of groups petitioned EPA for toxic trade secrets to have an expiration date.
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Just over a year after an oil-train explosion in Quebec killed 47 people, information on the threats oil trains present to public safety is starting to seep through a long blackout in which railroads convinced pliable federal regulators that the public was better off not knowing. Journalists from the AP and McClatchy FOIA'd information loose from Amtrak on Maryland and Pennsylvania, two of the states that have been reluctant to disclose.
Journalists: if you haven't been paying attention to federal advisory committees, maybe it's time to start. These panels are a major back door through which industry exerts quiet influence on government regulators — but they are kept available to scrutiny by the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) and the Sunshine Act.
The Obama White House released a new rule reversing its ban on lobbyists in government. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) rule allows registered lobbyists to participate as members on panels covered by the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA). The rule change was forced by a court decision.
"Inside Story" editor Beth Daley interviews Tampa (FL) Bay Times' Ivan Penn about his reporting on nuclear power, including the closing of the Crystal River Nuclear Plant, problems with cooling tubes at another facility and the risk to ratepayers for new nuclear power generation in Florida. Photo: Cooling towers at Crystal River nuclear plant in Florida. © Maurice Rivenbark, Tampa Bay Times.SEJ Publication Types:
Four journalists and a food writer have had their notes subpoenaed in a company's $1.2-billion defamation lawsuit against ABC News for calling its product, a common hamburger additive, "pink slime."
Here are some recent explainers of interest to environmental journalists from the CRS, which Congress does not allow to be released to the taxpaying public who paid for them. The WatchDog thanks those who leaked them and the Federation of American Scientists' Project on Government Secrecy for publishing them.Topics on the Beat:
Pressure to bring a bipartisan power-boost bill for the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to the Senate floor mounted June 26, 2014, when a coalition of some 50 groups urged action. The bill would narrow a broad exemption that has in some cases shielded from disclosure almost anything not published in official and final form.
The federal government has not only done very little to protect the public from the mass-casualty threats chemical facilities present to neighboring communities, they've focused efforts on keeping the public from knowing about those threats or the government's own failures to keep them safe. Now the U.S. EPA has signaled that it is about to revise a key rule governing chemical facility safety and security.
A sloppily written provision that could have opened the door wider for federal land managers to charge fees or require permits for news photography died in the Senate July 10, 2014, along with the "Bipartisan Sportsmen's Bill" to which it was attached. SEJ and other media groups had objected to the language. According to the AP, the bill "would have opened more federal lands to hunters and other sportsmen, increased funds for shooting ranges and blocked government curbs on bullets and fishing gear containing lead."