A bill to strengthen the Freedom of Information Act awaits Senate floor action. But the Obama administration, which once pledged to be the most open in history, has so far been strangely silent. Crickets. "Worries from the agencies are whispered into lawmakers' ears," wrote E&E Publishing's Kevin Bogardus.
- SEJ Publication Types:Visibility:
After opposing gag and sealing orders in the trial of former Massey coal CEO Don Blankenship on charges of conspiracy to violate federal mine safety and health standards — and cover-up — a news media coalition led by Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press won access to the trial from a federal appeals court March 5, 2015.
After a judge refused to reverse most of the secrecy ruling around the 2010 Upper Big Branch mine disaster caused by Massey Energy's safety violations, including indictment of the company's former CEO, media outlets appealed. Now a coalition of many more media groups, led by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, have filed a friend-of-the-court brief opposing the secrecy ruling as unconstitutional.
For decades, U.S. politicians have made energy independence a patriotic platitude — with one result being a ban on exporting crude oil produced in the U.S. Now some oil companies are getting exceptions to the export ban for a product called "condensate," and the Commerce Department won't say why. So a coalition of environmental groups have filed a Freedom of Information Act request to find out.
News media and open-government groups across the country will field events March 15-21, 2015, to emphasize the importance of freedom of information to democratic government. Here is a short preliminary list of some major Sunshine Week events already scheduled.Topics on the Beat:
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.
Congress keeps secret the top-notch nonpartisan explainers from the Congressional Research Service. Or tries to. Thanks to the Federation of American Scientists' Government Secrecy Project, you can read the reports your tax dollars paid for below.Topics on the Beat:
The Senate Judiciary Committee, despite changing from Democrat to Republican control, unanimously approved a FOIA bill (S 337) on February 5, 2015. A similar House bill (HR 653) was introduced February 2 and awaits action by the Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
Is the State Department review of whether to permit the Keystone XL pipeline transparent? Not at all. State spokesperson Jen Psaki stiff-armed the Associated Press' Matt Lee February 3, 2015, when he asked whether all eight agencies invited to comment had done so.
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.