There used to be a searchable, online database of oil and chemical spill reports that reporters could turn to in an emergency to get insight into important breaking news. But ham-handed security efforts have sabotaged the public's right to know. Right now, emergency responders are working on a spill of a cancer-causing fuel additive known as MTBE. But news reporters probably couldn't get much if any helpful information from the database today (we checked).
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After opposing gag and sealing orders in the trial of former Massey coal CEO Don Blankenship on charges of conspiracy to violate federal mine safety and health standards — and cover-up — a news media coalition led by Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press won access to the trial from a federal appeals court March 5, 2015.
After a judge refused to reverse most of the secrecy ruling around the 2010 Upper Big Branch mine disaster caused by Massey Energy's safety violations, including indictment of the company's former CEO, media outlets appealed. Now a coalition of many more media groups, led by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, have filed a friend-of-the-court brief opposing the secrecy ruling as unconstitutional.
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.
A coalition of journalism and photography groups, including SEJ, objected to requirements for permits and fees for photography in the public parks of Fairfax County, Virginia, a suburb of Washington, DC. In a February 4, 2015, letter to the Fairfax County Park Authority (FCPA), the 14 groups asked the agency to revise its rules to protect photojournalists' First Amendment rights.
Professional photojournalists may again be facing unconstitutional requirements for permits to work in public parks — this time at the county level in a well-heeled District of Columbia suburb. But Virginia's Fairfax County Park Authority is encountering pushback as they conduct an annual review of their fee policies at various park units.
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One way to deal with bad press is to make it illegal. Exposés of inhumane conditions at feedlots and slaughterhouses are being made illegal by state legislatures that pass "ag gag" laws. Now a case in Utah is challenging whether industrial agriculture's claims of secrecy trump the eating public's right to know. Image: Sows in 7'x2' Smithfield Foods gestation crates. By Humane Society of the US [CC], 2010.
Three major electric utilities want the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) to make ratepayers pay for aging and unprofitable coal and nuclear generation plants in that state. But the ratepayers — the utilities claim — aren't entitled to know whether they might be ripped off.Region: