A newly enacted Wyoming law seems to be aimed at criminalizing the collection and reporting of stream pollution or other environmental harm. It creates a unique new category of crime called "data trespass." Just what the law, signed in March by Gov. Matt Mead (R), means or does is being debated hotly.
- SEJ Publication Types:Visibility:
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.
Power company Pacificorp has gone to court to prevent the Interior Department from disclosing how many birds are found dead at its wind-energy turbine sites. AP reporter Dina Cappiello has been writing an investigative series on the birds, including eagles, killed at wind farms in the U.S. The series found that federal regulators have not prosecuted or penalized wind-energy companies when their turbines kill birds and — the government has helped keep the scope of bird mortality secret.
The growing number of threats and assaults against employees of federal land agencies in the West is certainly the public's business. But efforts to document it by High Country News using the Freedom of Information Act have been thwarted by the Bureau of Land Management's central FOIA office. Veteran journalist Ray Ring tells the sad tale in HCN.
Just claiming something as "confidential business information" is not enough. Wyoming's Supreme Court said the state's drillers, and state regulators, bear the burden of showing why they are withholding disclosure of the often-toxic chemicals pumped underground in fracking operations.
The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and 16 other journalism organizations, including the publishers of two major Utah newspapers, filed a friend-of-the-court brief December 10, 2013, arguing that Utah's ag-gag law infringes on constitutionally protected newsgathering rights.
Reporting on abuse of animals is now officially a crime — at least under Colorado law. Animal-rights activist Taylor Radig was charged after she made public a video showing employees of a Colorado ranch abusing calves.
- SEJ Publication Types:Topics on the Beat:
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.
The Society of Environmental Journalists wrote Interior Secretary Ken Salazar about the Election Day incident of attempted intimidation in Colorado, when the Secretary threatened to "punch out" SEJ member Dave Philipps, senior investigative reporter with the Colorado Springs Gazette.