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.
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The federal government has not only done very little to protect the public from the mass-casualty threats chemical facilities present to neighboring communities, they've focused efforts on keeping the public from knowing about those threats or the government's own failures to keep them safe. Now the U.S. EPA has signaled that it is about to revise a key rule governing chemical facility safety and security.
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.
Should firefighters and residents know whether trains loaded with explosive oil are routed through the heart of residential districts? Many railroads say no, claiming it is a security issue. But on June 18, 2014, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) dismissed that claim, saying that oil train routing was not sensitive security information. Yet the railroads are fighting back.
Local reporters can find information about coal-ash situations in their own areas using a newly improved database compiled by the Environmental Integrity Project which goes well beyond anything previously available because it includes large amounts of painstaking research by EIP. The site is important for its focus on contamination of groundwater that people may drink by the toxic heavy metals in coal combustion wastes.
From 1970 until 2010, 34.8 million more people decided to move towards the coast of the United States and that population is expected to grow just as sea-level rise and climate change continue to increase the risk of living there. Amy Wold, a reporter with The Advocate in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, covers change and adaptation; locks and floodgates; levees and marshes; communities at risk; insurance issues; and lessons learned. Photo (click to enlarge): In 2012, Wold took this shot of the rapidly disappearing Cat Island in Barataria Basin in south Louisiana. She returned there in 2014 to find barely any land left above water. © Amy Wold, The (Baton Rouge) Advocate.SEJ Publication Types:
As 100-car trains of explosive crude oil snake through U.S. cities and river gorges, the railroad industry continues to tell the public they are being kept secret from terrorists. But now a series of articles by Rob Davis for the The (Portland) Oregonian seems to have caught the railroads and the feds in their own contradictions.
When the fertilizer depot in West, Texas, blew up, some schools were damaged beyond repair. Fortunately, none of the kids died. But it raised an issue that has been obvious — and too often ignored by news media — for years. A new tool from the Center for Effective Government will help environmental journalists learn which schools in their area are near facilities that handle toxic, hazardous, explosive, or combustible materials.
One worker was killed February 11, 2014, when a Chevron gas well exploded near Bobtown, Pennsylvania, and burned for five days. But inspectors from the state's Department of Environmental Protection were stopped by Chevron from approaching the site — thus keeping them from seeing possible safety violations. The DEP acquiesced at the time, but later cited Chevron for nine violations at the site.
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