After a February 16, 2015, oil train derailment and explosion in West Virginia, new concerns have arisen over the public's right to know about the dangers oil trains pose to communities. Now trackside communities have some data and maps to help them protect themselves. Image: AP Photo/ Office of the Governor of West Virginia, Steven Wayne Rotsch.
- SEJ Publication Types:Visibility:
Congress keeps secret the top-notch nonpartisan explainers from the Congressional Research Service. Or tries to. Thanks to the Federation of American Scientists' Government Secrecy Project, you can read the reports your tax dollars paid for below.Topics on the Beat:
Is the State Department review of whether to permit the Keystone XL pipeline transparent? Not at all. State spokesperson Jen Psaki stiff-armed the Associated Press' Matt Lee February 3, 2015, when he asked whether all eight agencies invited to comment had done so.
Are megabucks from fossil fuels and other big industries corrupting the election of federal government officials? The U.S. public has little chance of knowing under current rules that are bringing "dark money" to ascendancy in American politics.
Environmental journalists can find important stories using data about lobbyists registered under the Foreign Agents Registration Act to work for foreign firms and governments. The Sunlight Foundation and other groups have compiled some of the information into a searchable online database — a starting point for finding enviro and energy stories.Region:
Three GOP-backed House bills attacking science at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency are unlikely to become law in the current Congress — or the next. The Obama administration has threatened to veto all three, which the House passed in November along party lines. None is likely to muster enough support to override a veto.
EPA has issued a "clarification" of its SAB scientist-muzzling policy, which acknowledges that SAB members are free to talk to reporters — mostly — as long as they are speaking for themselves. Still, the Society of Professional Journalists wrote EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy December 1 declaring their dissatisfaction with the clarification.
A coalition of journalism groups, including SEJ, is calling on the U.S. Forest Service to make clear in its directives that journalists, documentarians, and media photographers do not need permits to take pictures in National Forest Wilderness or other public lands.
On a 229-191 party-line vote, the GOP-controlled House passed a bill reining in EPA's Science Advisory Board (SAB) — authorizing conflicts of interest for its members and gagging them in communications about subjects they are expert on. Science integrity and environmental groups had opposed the bill, which the House passed on November 18, 2014.
It seemed like good news when Baker Hughes, one of the world's largest oilfield services companies, announced in Oct 2014 that it would start disclosing all the chemicals it used in its fracking operation. Now Halliburton, an even larger oilfield services company, is buying Baker Hughes. In a $34.6 billion merger. Or is it a hostile takeover?