As SEJournal's part during Sunshine Week, we've put together a step-by-step for filing your own Freedom of Information Act requests. Find out about best practices for waiving fees, expediting requests, pushing back on exemptions, appealing FOIA denials and using state open-records laws. [Image: © Clipart.com]
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It's Sunshine Week, and open government events are scheduled around the United States. This month's WatchDog TipSheet has a rundown, plus news on SEJ concerns over restrictions to press access at FERC meetings, on a 7,564-page FOIA email dump on EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and more.Topics on the Beat:
The latest WatchDog TipSheet details an open-records case against U.S. EPA nominee Scott Pruitt (shown), the scoop on an Agriculture Department animal welfare database that vanished then returned, a reporter busted at Standing Rock, plus items on whistleblowers, coal-ash and more.Topics on the Beat:Region:
At a time when government information may be harder than ever to access, WatchDog offers a unique guide to leaks that reporters can offer potential whistleblowers. Also in the latest column, sealed records on a weedkiller-cancer connection, secret talks on coal-ash regs and more.Topics on the Beat:
The SEJ has voiced concerns to the U.S. government over an incident in which a Canadian photojournalist en route to cover the Dakota Access Pipeline protests was searched at the U.S. border, then prevented entering. The latest WatchDog TipSheet outlines the free speech implications, including for U.S. reporters.
A flap over pool coverage of President-elect Trump may prove a prologue to new challenges for the news media. Will journalists have access to the sources and information needed to do their jobs, including covering coming policy battles over the environment? Our WatchDog editor reads the signals on press relations under a Trump Administration. Photo: By Marc Nozell (Flickr) [CC BY 2.0].
Another database upgrade that will help environmental journalists is available from the group Southeast Coal Ash. This database site covers Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia.
U.S. EPA's refinement of ECHO's search engine for drinking water violations should make it possible for journalists to ask much more sophisticated and complex questions — but the usual caveats apply.
The vast coal seams below federally owned lands in the West are a resource owned by the American people as a whole — and when rights to mine them are sold to coal companies, it is supposed to be on terms that are in the public interest. So you'd think public scrutiny via open information would be a given. The Interior Department says not, recently denying a FOIA request for this information. Image: © Clipart.com.
UPDATE: The Society of Environmental Journalists (SEJ) on Oct 19, 2016 wrote law enforcement officials at the state and federal levels, objecting to prosecution of journalists who have been covering protests against the Dakota Access Pipe Line and other pipelines. The prosecutor who charged Democracy Now's Amy Goodman has responded to SEJ's letter.