Tens of thousands of U.S. citizens are at risk from potential dam disasters, yet state and federal agencies hold to a policy that amounts to "out of sight, out of mind." The biggest danger, apparently, is that the public might find out about the dangers, and criticize insufficient dam safety measures, inconvenience private dam owners, depress real estate values, or demand public spending that is politically painful for those in office.
- SEJ Publication Types:Topics on the Beat:Visibility:
This special issue of the WatchDog focuses on the transparency of safety information related to dams, levees, impoundments, and related water-control structures. For environmental journalists, these subjects offer a goldmine of great story possibilities. These are stories that have not been covered much in the past decade, and stories that fit well at the local, state, or regional level.Topics on the Beat:
Special Report: Part Three
By KATE SHEPPARD
Americans — and humans in general — have long flocked to the coasts. Thirty-nine percent of the U.S. population, or about 123 million of us, live in coastal counties. But many in coastal areas are finding it increasingly less hospitable due to sea-level rise and extreme weather events linked to climate change. As communities figure out how to adapt to these changes, it is often environmental journalists who are being asked to cover these complex stories.
Special Report: Part One
By CHRIS CLAYTON
If you’re looking to connect average Americans to climate change and to how they will have to adapt to it, why not report on the future of food and agriculture? After all, most Americans may not visit the polar ice caps, but everyone needs to eat.
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Remember that March 29, 2013, oil pipeline spill that slimed a major piece of Mayflower, Arkansas? Well we now learn that neither Mayflower residents nor the US public are allowed to know how Exxon planned to clean up such a spill.
The system for informing Americans about the threats to their health and safety posed by chemical plants is seriously broken, a Reuters investigation revealed August 10, 2013. Facilities often misidentify chemicals or their location, or fail to report the existence of the substances. But there are tools to help reporters.
Studies by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health show silica used in hydraulic fracturing of tight oil and gas formations can endanger workers. But a FOIA request seeking to know the sites where workers had been endangered has met with no response, independent journalist and SEJ member Elizabeth Grossman reports.
A doughty, Pulitzer-winning publication is insisting the public has a right to know when pipeline companies are profiting by endangering people's lives, health, and property. InsideClimate News is pushing back against oil companies and federal regulators who say reports on pipeline flaws and hazards are trade secrets.Region:
If you are looking for yet another category of environmental information that the U.S. public is not allowed to know about, try international trade agreements. A recent court decision — one that got little attention from the news media — upheld the federal government's authority to keep secret some information about the health and environmental impacts of trade treaties.