A disturbing story of poor chemical company compliance with environmental and safety rules was released October 22, 2015, by a watchdog group. It could have — and perhaps should have — been done by a news publication. And it shows the use journalists could make of several key databases.
- SEJ Publication Types:Visibility:
An important, but little-known, transparency law requires that FAC meetings be open to the public. But a new study shows that more than two-thirds of the time, they are not. On those committees, industry "experts" who have a financial stake may be telling agencies to ignore scientific findings in their regulation of things like environmental health and toxic chemicals.
The Center for Public Integrity systematically rated the 50 state governments on various measures of integrity. One of those was transparency. Only three states scored higher than D+.Topics on the Beat:Region:
The speed and ease of this Canadian revolution by incoming Prime Minister Justin Trudeau belies the "common wisdom" among many jaded reporters and PR professionals that muzzling of U.S. government scientists and officials is somehow inevitable and woven into the culture of government.Region:
"Action" may be too strong a word. For that matter, "open" may be too strong a word. The Obama administration Tuesday unveiled its third "National Action Plan" at the international Open Government Partnership in Mexico. But note that many items are held over from the second plan because they have not yet been accomplished.Topics on the Beat:
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has for years suppressed full disclosure of the National Inventory of Dams, once a key tool for journalists reporting on dam safety — or the government's failure to ensure it. Now that tool is back in the toolbox ... mostly.Region:
Several data resources can help journalists who want to develop stories about still-hazardous sites in their locality or region, including EPA's National Priorities List, CERCLIS database and state agencies.
Access to water quality data was an issue at one highly politicized House hearing on the August 5, 2015, toxic spill from a long-abandoned mine near Silverton, Colorado, where New Mexico Secretary of Environment Ryan Flynn accused EPA of refusing for weeks to share data on the quality of waters fouled by the spill.
Federal agencies sometimes wait years to respond to Freedom of Information Act requests, then ask if they are still interested in receiving the requested information. Now the Justice Department's Office of Information Policy has issued an official "guidance" that frowns slightly on overuse of the "still interested?" practice.
SEJ, which has complained about press-office restrictions for years, joined over 50 other journalism groups in signing an Aug 10, 2015 letter requesting government transparency — again. The groups had sent a letter to the White House in July 2014, a followup in Aug 2014, resulting in a non-response response from the WH later that month.