Federal databases are a trove of often still-unexploited riches for environment and energy reporters. Database journalism has won many an investigative reporter a national prize — but it has also helped small-outlet journalists find local stories. Over the past three years, the federal site Data.gov — while hardly perfect — has bloomed with data riches.
President Obama ordered federal agencies to start publishing more of their valuable datasets online in 2009, and in response the Data.gov website went live with a boatload of new data from a wide range of agencies. Since then, good databases have continued to accumulate on the site, and its managers have made it easier to find and access what you are looking for.
Data.gov is especially strong in datasets from federal agencies that deal with the environment, energy, natural resources, health, and science. Many of them are downloadable, so that you can crunch them on your own computer. Today, an increasing proportion are map layers or geo-tagged in some way. Here are just a few randomly chosen examples you may not be aware of:
- "Pipeline Incident Data — Hazardous Liquid Accident Data," DOT Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, multiple datasets for various dates (natural gas pipeline incidents also available).
- "Hazmat Special Permits — Data Mining Tool," DOT Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.
- "Federal Fleet Report," with Federal Automotive Statistical Tool (FAST), Department of Transportation.
- "United States Fish & Wildlife Service Cadastral Geodatabase — FWS Interest," US Fish & Wildlife Service. "This data layer depicts lands and waters administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) in North America, U.S. Trust Territories and Possessions."
- "WATERS Expert Query Tool," US Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Water. "Watershed Assessment, Tracking & Environmental Results (WATERS) is an integrated information system for the nation's surface waters, with information relevant to water quality."
- "Habitat Areas of Particular Concern," NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service. Includes administrative and political boundaries of sensitive marine habitat areas.
- National Hurricane Center (NOAA/NWS) Mobile App — allows you to get realtime updates on tropical storm advisories on your cell phone.
- "Event Reports for Operating Reactors," Nuclear Regulatory Commission (raw data of all the events for the last month).
Go look at Data.gov. There's more.
- Previous Story: "Data.gov: 100s of New Fed Datasets Released, Many Environmental," SEJ WatchDog of January 27, 2010.