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.
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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.
Just over a year after an oil-train explosion in Quebec killed 47 people, information on the threats oil trains present to public safety is starting to seep through a long blackout in which railroads convinced pliable federal regulators that the public was better off not knowing. Journalists from the AP and McClatchy FOIA'd information loose from Amtrak on Maryland and Pennsylvania, two of the states that have been reluctant to disclose.
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As 100-car trains of explosive crude oil snake through U.S. cities and river gorges, the railroad industry continues to tell the public they are being kept secret from terrorists. But now a series of articles by Rob Davis for the The (Portland) Oregonian seems to have caught the railroads and the feds in their own contradictions.
One worker was killed February 11, 2014, when a Chevron gas well exploded near Bobtown, Pennsylvania, and burned for five days. But inspectors from the state's Department of Environmental Protection were stopped by Chevron from approaching the site — thus keeping them from seeing possible safety violations. The DEP acquiesced at the time, but later cited Chevron for nine violations at the site.
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.
"Inside Story" editor Beth Daley interviews Charleston (WV) Gazette reporter Ken Ward Jr. — who is recognized nationally for his reporting on coal mining, the environment and workplace safety — about his unique work on the Freedom Industries spill story. Photo: The FI tank which leaked a coal-cleaning chemical into the river on Jan. 9, 2014, contaminating the drinking water of 300,000 West Virginians for weeks. Credit: Commercial Photography Services of WV via USCSB.SEJ Publication Types:
For decades reporters have staked out doorways in the U.S. Capitol in hopes of shouting questions at emerging bigwigs. But last week Bloomberg BNA energy reporter Ari Natter, trying to question EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, was briefly detained by Capitol Police. McCarthy declined to answer his question.Topics on the Beat: