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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Under law, Pennsylvania was supposed to publish a report outlining climate change impacts on the state by Spring 2012. But the Department of Environmental Protection says it is still being reviewed, and nobody will say when it might be published.
Here's more evidence of why documents should be leaked to reporters: a Powerpoint obtained by LA Times' Neela Banerjee shows EPA's Region 3 staff argued a year ago for continuing its investigation of fracking pollution around Dimock, PA — as EPA HQ announced it was ending its study of Dimock wells. Now there's an echo in Pavillion, WY.
The fracking industry loves to argue there's no proof its gas-extraction methods cause pollution. But it works hard in Pennsylvania to keep secret any evidence that might prove the question — one way or the other. Existence of its database was reported by Marie Cusick of WITF in Harrisburg, via NPR's StateImpact Pennsylvania.
While a Tennessee governor vetoed "ag-gag" legislation in that state, bills criminalizing the collection of information about abuses in livestock operations are still being pushed in other states — and the mechanism may be extended to stifle reporting on other environmental abuses.
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.
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.
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.
Should state freedom-of-information laws disqualify people or organizations from out of state from getting government records? Led by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, some 53 news media groups have urged the US Supreme Court to say no.
A fatal November 30, 2012, collapse of part of a coal-slurry impoundment in West Virginia served as a reminder of safety issues that may not be adequately regulated in some states and localities. You can locate local coal-slurry impoundments and information on their status with an online public database.