May 22, 2013–While a Tennessee governor vetoed "ag-gag" legislation in that state, bills criminalizing the collection of information about abuses in livestock operations are still being pushed in other states — and the mechanism may be extended to stifle reporting on other environmental abuses.
May 8, 2013–The unanimous decision turned down a FOIA request by a California resident for records in Virginia. According to the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, only a "handful" of states have similar residents-only restrictions to their FOI laws. But the doctrinal impact of the decision is likely to be large, since the court held, among other things, that the First Amendment conveys no right of access to government information.
April 24, 2013–News stories about the April 17, 2013, explosion of a fertilizer storage plant in the town of West, Texas that killed 15 people have so far focused on the plant operator's risk-disclosure failure, instead of the likely fact that government agencies knew the nature and magnitude of the hazard — or should have known. The bigger story is the regulatory failure — and industry's decades-long campaign to keep the public ignorant of the threats they face. Photo: AP/LM Otero/Available through Creative Commons.
April 24, 2013–Seattle-based InvestigateWest published a feature package last summer documenting illegal parkland conversions in Michigan, New York City, and Oklahoma. They could not cover all the other states — that was left for you to do, with the assistance of their database of some 40,000 federal grants under the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
April 24, 2013–Government rulemaking takes place with everything on the record in a public docket, right? Well ... actually not. EnergyWire reporter Mike Soraghan revealed in an April 12, 2013 story that presidential aide Heather Zichal met more than 20 times with industry groups lobbying on the proposed rule for fracking on federal lands.
April 15, 2013–In this excerpt from the new issue of SEJournal (Spring), InvestigateWest's Robert McClure and Jason Alcorn explain how to spin the local angle about how parks built or improved with money from the Land and Water Conservation Fund are increasingly being illegally privatized or converted to something other than parks — including sharing their searchable database of almost 40,000 park grants.
April 10, 2013–The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled in favor of the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, saying that agencies had 20 days to respond to FOIA requests, stating "what documents would or wouldn’t be handed over and why," according to the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.
April 10, 2013–It may come as little surprise that an unknown number of Americans could die as a result of White House weakening of food safety rules mandated by Congress. The Office of Management and Budget has been secretly weakening environmental health and safety at industry request for years. The surprise is that we found out.
March 27, 2013–The unsealed documents revealed that the potential plaintiffs had received $750,000 from frackers Range Resources, which has been accused of high-handed tactics. The case is important in several respects — even beyond the broader controversy over sealing of civil settlements.