Reporters scrambling to inform the 300,000 citizens of Charleston, West Virginia, about why they could not drink their tap water, what health threats it presented, and who was responsible faced a stone wall from most of the responsible government agencies in the early days of the crisis.
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It's true. The White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) helps well-heeled industry lobbyists thwart rules to protect public safety and health. Washington Post's Juliet Eilperin proves it with documents and insider interviews showing how election politics trumped open government, regulatory law, and public health in the run-up to the 2012 election.
Environmental journalists who want to explore the impacts of toxic substances on wildlife, fish, and plants can get help from a little-known EPA database. Online and searchable, ECOTOX has gotten better over the years, making it useful for reporters as well as scientists.
One reason proof of harm is hard to find is that drillers pay people to keep quiet. Now the unsealing of a once-confidential settlement in Pennsylvania gives a clear view of how the silencing works. The 17-page, two-year-old settlement agreement includes a $750,000 payment to a family critical of fracking, saying they became sick, as well as a gag order that applies to their 7- and 10-year-old children for the rest of their lives.
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We told you so. But now a Harvard study also says it: the FracFocus registry designed and operated by the drilling industry (and its close friends) fails to meet the public's right to accountability and complete disclosure of chemicals pumped into underground formations that may impact people's drinking-water wells.
The March 29, 2013, spill from ExxonMobil's Pegasus Pipeline near Mayflower, Arkansas is a big deal for several reasons. But the most important thing about the Mayflower spill may be that ExxonMobil and the federal agencies involved seem to be trying to keep news media from getting close enough to see what is going on. Read SEJ's letter protesting the media treatment, and EPA's response.Topics on the Beat:
Francesca Lyman asks "What does Hurricane Sandy tell us about coping with human health and consequences of climate change?"SEJ Publication Types:Topics on the Beat:
Sunlight cures many ills. A month after watchdog Sheila Kaplan exposed a White House blackout of an EPA report on children's environmental health, the Obama administration uncorked it. Of course, the timing may have had something to do with the election as well; EPA announced its publication January 25, just a few days after the inauguration.