The vast coal seams below federally owned lands in the West are a resource owned by the American people as a whole — and when rights to mine them are sold to coal companies, it is supposed to be on terms that are in the public interest. So you'd think public scrutiny via open information would be a given. The Interior Department says not, recently denying a FOIA request for this information. Image: © Clipart.com.
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UPDATE: The Society of Environmental Journalists (SEJ) on Oct 19, 2016 wrote law enforcement officials at the state and federal levels, objecting to prosecution of journalists who have been covering protests against the Dakota Access Pipe Line and other pipelines. The prosecutor who charged Democracy Now's Amy Goodman has responded to SEJ's letter.
Investigative journalism is hardly about paper documents anymore. The cutting edge today is more likely to be requests for emails, as well as text messages, chats and other electronic communications such as Slack. This big challenge was front and center at the recent meeting of the National Freedom of Information Coalition.
In addition to nuisance smells, confined animal feeding operations (aka CAFOs) can present serious air and water pollution problems. They are weakly regulated. Now a federal appeals court says information on who owns those feedlots can be kept secret. Image: © Clipart.com.
The Congressional Research Service produces expert nonpartisan backgrounders on many subjects of interest to environment and energy journalists. But Congress won't release them. Thanks to the Federation of American Scientists' Project on Government Secrecy, you can read them now.Topics on the Beat:
A lawsuit over Wyoming's controversial "data trespass" law, which made it illegal to document pollution violations on "private open land", was settled in August without really resolving any of the important Constitutional issues behind it — and with both sides claiming victory.
A key issue on the Freedom of Information Act is once a government record is released to a single FOIA requester, should it then be automatically released to any other requester and the general public? "Yes" was the answer from most journalists surveyed by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press — but with an important caveat. Image: © Clipart.com.
Is text messaging compatible with open meetings? Courts have for several years upheld the notion that texts can be public records. The problem, of course, is knowing about them — since they are less visible than meeting minutes. Image: © Clipart.com.
Food industry groups generally liked the new rule, saying that it improved transparency. But consumer groups said it did not go far enough. Image: © Clipart.com.
Embroiled in a growing scandal about efforts to cover up the science on the threat posed by coal ash to North Carolinians' drinking water, Duke Energy is asking a court to hold a hearing to discover the source of a document leaked to the Associated Press.Topics on the Beat: