If you want to know whether an oil train is going by your community, just go down to the railroad tracks and watch for it. But don't ask the railroad or the state. In many cases, they don't think you can be trusted with this secret.
- SEJ Publication Types:Visibility:
EPA's Plan, approved back on January 15, 2009, mandates giving "understandable, timely, accurate, and consistent information to the public." The plan laudably emphasizes coordination with other agencies — but it also leads to strong message control.
Here are some recently leaked CRS reports of relevance to environmental journalists, as well as the latest on the debate following the NYT editorial calling for the reports to be made public.Topics on the Beat:
When a stealth legislative move to dismantle Wisconsin's open records law was revealed this month, a statewide uproar caused sponsors to back off. Appropro that the old lesson "Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty" would be taught once again around July 4, 2015.Topics on the Beat:Region:
A new pilot program would make available to the public automatically and immediately any information released to an individual FOIA requester. But some journalists would rather not have their pending scoops revealed before they are ripe. Image source: U.S. government.
Environmental journalists aren't the only ones complaining about access to officials being constrained by flacks.Topics on the Beat:Region:
The WatchDog has long whined about Congress' mystifying refusal to let taxpayers read Congressional Research Service reports the taxpayers have paid for. A June 17, 2015, editorial in the New York Times called the situation "absurd," expressing hope that a new director of the Library of Congress (home of the CRS) would manage to get the policy changed.
The mandate for disclosure of oil train information set by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) in a May 2014 emergency order still exists. But getting that information will be harder — and a battle that must be fought by reporters and public safety advocates on a state-by-state basis.
The issue re-ignited recently when astrophysicist and climate change denier Willie Soon, affiliated with the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, was revealed to have taken funding — but not disclosed it — from fossil fuel interests. Now the Smithsonian Institution has said it will tighten its guidelines for disclosure of funding by its researchers.
At the Spills of National Significance (SONS) Draft Communications Strategy forum on June 8, and in a June 30 letter, SEJ urged SONS communicators to release data fully and promptly, to acknowledge uncertainties and gaps, and to give journalists good access to officials, experts and places.