If you want to interview an EPA official about a drinking water pollution catastrophe or a controversy about air pollution from fracking, the press office may do its best to stop you. Examples abound. But, there are ways for journalists to push back. Read about them here.
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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.
SEJ objected strenuously last week to the ground rules for a telephone press briefing on U.S. EPA's carbon emissions rule for existing power plants. In a June 5, 2014, letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, the Society of Environmental Journalists objected to the "truncated, anonymous 'background' tele-briefing for news media" held on the June 2 roll-out day. The text of EPA's June 10 response to SEJ's letter is here.
Reporter Emily Atkin of the Climate Progress blog told recently of flying into Fort McMurray, Alberta to see the tar sands and being hassled for some 45 minutes by "security" officials because she was a journalist — including being told "We might have to send you back to the States."Region:
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:
For years, under multiple administrations, White House officials have subverted open government by holding illegal "ex parte" meetings with special interests affected by agency rulemakings. The meetings are still secret but now they have made the existing online database of meetings and calls searchable by agency, sub-agency, date range, stage of rulemaking, and regulatory identifier. The catch? You can only search for meetings that happened AFTER April 1, 2014.
U.S. Capitol officials apologized for the brief detention March 28, 2014, of BNA energy reporter Ari Natter, effectively conceding that such incidents should not occur. Apologies came from both Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Terry Gainer and Capitol Police Chief Kim C. Dine in separate e-mail responses to an April 8 letter of complaint from SEJ.Region:
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It was a crisis. Charleston, WV, residents had just been told not to drink city water because of a chemical spill upstream of its intake. It would seem routine to call the US EPA and ask for information or comment — and that's just what prize-winning Charleston Gazette reporter Ken Ward Jr. did. He waited a week for EPA to get back to him on the record. SEJ wants to know why such communication delays at EPA have become the norm.
Spin control and the security state may have taken large bites out of the First Amendment in recent years, but the pushback celebration known as Sunshine Week has never been more robust. Pushing for open government is a trend. Nowhere is this more true than on the environment and energy beats.