May 8, 2013–The unanimous decision turned down a FOIA request by a California resident for records in Virginia. According to the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, only a "handful" of states have similar residents-only restrictions to their FOI laws. But the doctrinal impact of the decision is likely to be large, since the court held, among other things, that the First Amendment conveys no right of access to government information.
May 8, 2013–InsideClimate News' Lisa Song notes that US EPA's website had originally shown 1,149,460 gallons of oil recovered from the 2010 Enbridge spill near Kalamazoo, Michigan. Sometime in mid-March 2013, she reports, that number was removed from the EPA site and replaced by one much lower, the amount Enbridge claims was spilled.
April 24, 2013–News stories about the April 17, 2013, explosion of a fertilizer storage plant in the town of West, Texas that killed 15 people have so far focused on the plant operator's risk-disclosure failure, instead of the likely fact that government agencies knew the nature and magnitude of the hazard — or should have known. The bigger story is the regulatory failure — and industry's decades-long campaign to keep the public ignorant of the threats they face. Photo: AP/LM Otero/Available through Creative Commons.
April 24, 2013–Seattle-based InvestigateWest published a feature package last summer documenting illegal parkland conversions in Michigan, New York City, and Oklahoma. They could not cover all the other states — that was left for you to do, with the assistance of their database of some 40,000 federal grants under the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
April 15, 2013–In this excerpt from the new issue of SEJournal (Spring), InvestigateWest's Robert McClure and Jason Alcorn explain how to spin the local angle about how parks built or improved with money from the Land and Water Conservation Fund are increasingly being illegally privatized or converted to something other than parks — including sharing their searchable database of almost 40,000 park grants.
April 15, 2013–New issues of SEJournal are available to members and subscribers only. Non-members and non-subscribers can view the Table of Contents of the current SEJournal issue (Spring), read an excerpt, and get information on how to join or subscribe. Previous issues are publicly available.
April 10, 2013–The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled in favor of the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, saying that agencies had 20 days to respond to FOIA requests, stating "what documents would or wouldn’t be handed over and why," according to the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.
April 10, 2013–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.
March 27, 2013–The unsealed documents revealed that the potential plaintiffs had received $750,000 from frackers Range Resources, which has been accused of high-handed tactics. The case is important in several respects — even beyond the broader controversy over sealing of civil settlements.
March 27, 2013–Natrona County District Judge Catherine Wilking ruled March 25, 2013, that a company could withhold as trade secret the ingredients used in the fluids it pumped under high pressure to fracture gas- and oil-bearing rock. Environmentalists had sought to make the ingredient list public.