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.
- SEJ Publication Types:Visibility:
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.
- SEJ Publication Types:Topics on the Beat:
Here are some recent explainers of interest to environmental journalists from the CRS, which Congress does not allow to be released to the taxpaying public who paid for them. The WatchDog thanks those who leaked them and the Federation of American Scientists' Project on Government Secrecy for publishing them.Topics on the Beat:
The National Bridge Inventory is a data tool that environmental and energy reporters can use to make their beat relevant to a wider audience. Compiled by the Federal Highway Administration, it can provide leads on stories like the use of federal highway funds, poor bridge maintenance, and even the pollution of water bodies with lead paint.
It may be good PR. Baker Hughes has not only been a leader in oilfield technology, but has also been a leader in the inexact science of producing benign media coverage. The company says it will disclose the identities of all the chemicals it uses, but not the exact amounts or proportions. This move might also be a shrewd way of getting a jump on the inevitable, ahead of possible EPA mandatory disclosure requirements.
On April 4, 2014, the Alamo Area Council of Governments, the regional area which is supposed to control smog, released its study results — which suggested drilling in the Eagle Ford shale did indeed contribute a lot to smog. Days later, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, which had funded the study, cut AACOG's budget by 25 percent.Region:
- SEJ Publication Types:
The oil and gas industry is not currently required to report toxic emissions from certain smaller operations — such as wells — because they do not fit EPA's definition of a TRI "facility." Yet 14 groups, led by the Environmental Integrity Project, have compiled and released data showing that oil and gas extraction facilities in just six states emitted ~8.5 million tons of toxic chemicals yearly.
Environmental journalists may find a story by asking about the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of a nearby coal-burning power plant or major chemical refinery. A new online EPA database gives information about the largest GHG emitters, makes the query easier and the answers more accurate.