February 13, 2013–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.
February 13, 2013–The United States, whose Minerals Management Service simply neglected to collect in-kind offshore oil royalties under President Bush, has yet to prove itself a paragon. Yet now a new Interior Department committee is poised to lecture other countries on how to do it right.
February 13, 2013–Among those that haven't updated FOIA regs since before Congress enacted FOIA amendments in 2007 are USDA, National Transportation Safety Board, DoE, National Indian Gaming Commission, DoJ, Chemical Safety and Hazards Investigation Board, OMB (which claims responsibility for FOIA discipline), Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board, Consumer Product Safety Commission, and DHHS.
January 30, 2013–Sunlight cures many ills. A month after watchdog Sheila Kaplan exposed a White House blackout of an EPA report on children's environmental health, the Obama administration uncorked it. Of course, the timing may have had something to do with the election as well; EPA announced its publication January 25, just a few days after the inauguration.
January 30, 2013–The release this month of the draft National Climate Assessment garnered many headlines. But little notice went to the fact that it was released at all. Earlier versions of this assessment of climate change's impacts on the U.S. were suppressed — and even "unpublished". But a few voices did take note of the Assessment's release.
January 30, 2013–Sunshine Week is a great opportunity for journalists to do the most important part of the job: spotlighting the very news that government officials are uncomfortable about disclosing. The website includes examples of good freedom-of-information stories, permission-free cartoons, logos and icons, and many all-purpose story ideas.
January 30, 2013–EPA had already released preliminary TRI data for the latest available year (2011), but its National Analysis makes for easier reporting as data is collated by state. It also offers analyses by industry sector and of toxics handling by collating the parent companies of each facility nationwide.
January 16, 2013–EPA bowed to industry, ruling in a January 3, 2013 memo that local drinking water utilities no longer have to notify their customers of contamination in writing. "The memo fails to set clear standards for electronic notification and delivery and makes it likely that segments of the public will have less access to these reports," the Center for Effective Government wrote in response to the EPA memo.
January 16, 2013–Should state freedom-of-information laws disqualify people or organizations from out of state from getting government records? Led by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, some 53 news media groups have urged the US Supreme Court to say no.
January 16, 2013–The suicide earlier this month of open-access activist Aaron Swartz brings again to the fore the ongoing difficulty journalists have accessing published scientific studies that bear on key current and future policy issues. Photo of Swartz, credit Flickr/peretzp.