April 20, 2015, marks the fifth anniversary of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, one of the largest environmental disasters in U.S. history. The story is far from over. If you are covering the legacy of the spill, SEJ is offering two special TipSheets by the Advocate's Amy Wold that will help you get the facts and background. Photo: Oiled endangered Ridley's turtle. Credit: Carolyn Cole/ LA Times; courtesy NOAA.
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The U.S. EPA has unveiled analysis of its most recent Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) data (for 2013). The TRI provides a useful starting point for finding not only local and regional hotspots, but also significant trends.
The industry got Congress in 2005 to block the public from knowing about these chemicals, which can end up in people's drinking water. But the enviro groups, led by the Environmental Integrity Project, want to use a different law to help unlock the data.
One way to deal with bad press is to make it illegal. Exposés of inhumane conditions at feedlots and slaughterhouses are being made illegal by state legislatures that pass "ag gag" laws. Now a case in Utah is challenging whether industrial agriculture's claims of secrecy trump the eating public's right to know. Image: Sows in 7'x2' Smithfield Foods gestation crates. By Humane Society of the US [CC], 2010.
The Center for Public Integrity, Columbia University, and City University of New York have just published some 20,000 pages of hitherto unpublished letters, e-mails, presentations, and meeting minutes from the oil and chemical industries in a public database, called "Exposed: Decades of Denial on Poisons."
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It seemed like good news when Baker Hughes, one of the world's largest oilfield services companies, announced in Oct 2014 that it would start disclosing all the chemicals it used in its fracking operation. Now Halliburton, an even larger oilfield services company, is buying Baker Hughes. In a $34.6 billion merger. Or is it a hostile takeover?
Yes, the pipeline is publicly regulated. Yes, the March 2013 rupture of Exxon's Pegasus Pipeline in Mayflower, Arkansas, quite publicly polluted people's yards and homes. Yes, it is publicly known that there were defects and poor maintenance on the pipeline. But 900,000 pages of documents that might show Exxon's neglect are being claimed as "confidential" by the company as it tries to defend against a class-action lawsuit.
For decades, Congress has refused to release taxpayer-funded reports by the Congressional Research Service. Fortunately, the Federation of American Scientists' Government Secrecy Project gets them and releases them. Here are some new explainers that may be of use to environmental journalists.
Federal agencies are still grinding forward on decisions about disclosure of often-toxic ingredients pumped into the ground during "fracking" to produce gas and oil. Significant decisions may come eventually from the Interior Department, the EPA, and the Obama White House. But don't bet on any courageous decisions until after the November election.