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.
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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."
SEJ and five other journalism groups sent a letter July 8, 2014 objecting to a bill up for debate on the US Senate floor this week that could restrict the ability of journalists to report on stories in National Parks, National Forests and other public lands. Photo: Fern Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park. Courtesy U.S. NPS.Region:
Sens. Patrick J. Leahy (D-VT) and John Cornyn (R-TX) introduced a bill that would add a balancing test and sunset to the "deliberative process" exemption in the current FOIA law. That exemption shields from disclosure records documenting internal policy debates within agencies before final decisions are made. Prospects for the Senate bill are improved by the fact that Leahy chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee and a related bill has already been passed by the House.Topics on the Beat:
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.
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.
More than a dozen news media organizations filed a brief May 6, 2014, arguing that the Federal Aviation Administration is violating the First Amendment with its limits on drones. The media groups were intervening in the appeal of a judge's overturning of a $10,000 Federal Aviation Administration fine imposed on Raphael Pirker, a videographer who shot a promotional video of the University of Virginia campus.
Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action wants higher courts to hear its argument that the Navy is required by the National Environmental Policy Act to disclose more information about the impacts of a nuclear submarine facility upgrade at the Kitsap-Bangor Naval Base in Washington state, especially the risk of explosion.Region:
Just claiming something as "confidential business information" is not enough. Wyoming's Supreme Court said the state's drillers, and state regulators, bear the burden of showing why they are withholding disclosure of the often-toxic chemicals pumped underground in fracking operations.