A bipartisan House bill was released March 12, 2013, marking Sunshine Week with proposed steps forward in implementing the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The bill, sponsored by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee's Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Elijah Cummings (D-MD), was put out in draft form for discussion and has yet to be formally introduced.
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An Associated Press analysis of data on Freedom of Information Act requests showed little increase in the number of FOIA requests from the public, a slight increase in rejection of such requests, and an increase in federal claims that such rejections were justified by security and internal deliberations.
Secret meetings and conflicts of interest for experts on federal advisory committees are still problems, openness advocates told Congress during Sunshine Week 2013. The searchable Federal Advisory Committee Act online database is a great aid for reporters in searching for this type of information on a particular beat.
Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and David Vitter (R-LA) and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) on March 7, 2013, released an e-mail exchange they suggest shows EPA lawyers delaying responses to requests for controversial information. They also charge EPA with incompetence and urge U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate.
A small chink appeared this month in the armor of nondisclosure that protects the oil and gas industry's relationship with federal leasing agencies. BLM had refused to disclose the nominating entities. Federal District Judge Matsch ruled that the Freedom of Information Act requires the disclosure.
According to the Washington Post, the National Weather Service is firing William Proenza, who once headed the National Hurricane Center, for revealing to the Post that looming budget cuts would harm forecasting effectiveness (something that can affect public safety and the profits of business).
A leaked draft of the replacement rule suggested Interior would leave handling of fracking data to the industry-run "FracFocus" project, which has come under criticism by environmental and watchdog groups for being hard to use and incomplete.
The Arizona-based Center for Biological Diversity filed suit in Alameda County Superior Court charging that the California Department of Conservation's Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources was not following the state's own law.Region:
President Obama on November 27, 2012, signed into law a bill beefing up previously flimsy protections for federal employee whistleblowers who disclose waste, fraud, and abuse. The legislation was supported by good-government watchdog groups.
Whistleblowers are key sources for investigative journalists. The bill, approved by unanimous consent in the House and Senate, was hailed by watchdog groups Government Accountability Project and Project on Government Oversight, who had fought for its passage.