It seemed like good news when Baker Hughes, one of the world's largest oilfield services companies, announced in Oct 2014 that it would start disclosing all the chemicals it used in its fracking operation. Now Halliburton, an even larger oilfield services company, is buying Baker Hughes. In a $34.6 billion merger. Or is it a hostile takeover?
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Here's an idea: let people know where 100-car trainloads of crude oil might be threatening their safety. After the July 2013 Lac-Mégantic disaster that killed 47, people might want to know about this. And the Federal Railroad Administration officially agrees — saying railroads can't hide this information. Now the Association of Washington Cities has an online map for that.Region:
Yes, the pipeline is publicly regulated. Yes, the March 2013 rupture of Exxon's Pegasus Pipeline in Mayflower, Arkansas, quite publicly polluted people's yards and homes. Yes, it is publicly known that there were defects and poor maintenance on the pipeline. But 900,000 pages of documents that might show Exxon's neglect are being claimed as "confidential" by the company as it tries to defend against a class-action lawsuit.
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.
The Society of Environmental Journalists wrote President Barack Obama October 23, 2014, urging him to take a strong position supporting legislation that would strengthen the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Bipartisan FOIA improvements may be one of the few pieces of legislation with a chance to clear the lame duck 113th Congress before control shifts to Republicans in 2015.
"News coverage on [National Forest System] lands is protected by the Constitution," wrote U.S. Forest Service Chief Thomas L. Tidwell in a November 4, 2014, memo to agency leaders, "and it is our responsibility to safeguard this right on the lands we manage for all Americans. Journalists provide a critical public service, and this agency will ensure their access in the pursuit of that public service."
For decades, Congress has refused to release taxpayer-funded reports by the Congressional Research Service. Fortunately, the Federation of American Scientists' Government Secrecy Project gets them and releases them. Here are some new explainers that may be of use to environmental journalists.
It's true — some public information officers are really paranoid. High Country News reporter Tristan Baurick, trying to report on preservation of a historic chalet in Olympic National Park, found "a bizarre blockade on press freedom, the likes of which I’d never experienced outside a military base or murder scene."Region:
Of the 457 investigations closed by the Interior Department's Inspector General's office last year, the office released public reports on only three. Not only were many of the reports withheld or redacted, but even the list of investigations was redacted before it was released.
The Center for Effective Government has compiled an interactive mapping database of some of the most dangerous chemical facilities in the U.S., showing their proximity to schools. The group also mapped which Congressional districts contain the most schoolkids at risk.