The SEJ WatchDog

 

Searchable archives of the biweekly WatchDog TipSheet's story ideas, articles, updates, events and other information with a focus on freedom-of-information issues of concern to environmental journalists in both the U.S. and Canada are posted here on the day of publication. Journalists are eligible for a free email subscription; send name and full contact information to the SEJ office. WatchDog TipSheet is also available via RSS feed.

Latest WatchDog TipSheet Items

May 20, 2015

  • The watchdog group Center for Effective Government offers data tools that partly offset government failures to protect people from dangerous materials that poison or injure people, burn, or explode. They are also tools for journalists trying to inform their communities.

  • It's not a mistake. Congress really doesn't want you to read those excellent explainers on public issues produced by experts at the Congressional Research Service (CRS). We know this because a House Appropriations subcommittee specifically restated that CRS was not to publish its reports.

  • A newly enacted Wyoming law seems to be aimed at criminalizing the collection and reporting of stream pollution or other environmental harm. It creates a unique new category of crime called "data trespass." Just what the law, signed in March by Gov. Matt Mead (R), means or does is being debated hotly.

  • The public is not allowed to know the terms of the draft Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade pact likely to come up for a Senate vote this year. Yet the Senate has already begun voting on terms for considering the treaty, which may allow other nations to override U.S. health, safety, and environmental protection laws. Fortunately, WikiLeaks has already published a leaked version of the environmental chapter of the TPP treaty.

May 6, 2015

  • As Congress limps toward revisions of the badly broken Toxic Substances Control Act, it's clear that only a small fraction of the roughly 84,000 chemicals in commerce in the U.S. have actually been tested for health effects. Now an environmental health group has rated some household cleaning products firms.

  • In response to the WatchDog's request for the U.S. EPA's press policy, EPA seems to be saying that it doesn't have one. Or that paradoxically EPA staff can talk to reporters but are forbidden to talk to reporters. Or that EPA does not respond to requests for information. Even though the WatchDog finally got a partial response to its June 10, 2014, FOIA request for EPA policies on news media access to EPA employees on April 29, 2015, nothing was revealed. Puzzled? So are we.

  • Congress does not release reports done by the Congressional Research Service to the public, even though taxpayers fund them. Thanks to the Federation of American Scientists' Government Secrecy Project, you can read them anyway.

  • Since U.S. oil production started booming, the news has been full of tanker trains blowing up. Under a May 2014 emergency order, the Federal Railway Administration increased requirements that railroads disclose oil train routes. But a new regulation issued May 1, 2015, leaves the public — and firefighters — with less information about the risks they face. Photo: The latest oil train derailment and explosion, today, in ND/Curt Bemson via AP.

April 2, 2015

  • Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), representing Florida Department of Environmental Protection employee Barton Bibler, is calling for an investigation by the DEP's Inspector General into whether the term "climate change" is actually forbidden to be used by state employees — and whether this violates Florida's open government law.

  • You have to give the U.S. EPA some credit. The agency has done quite a bit to let the public know about some of the toxic chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing. EPA on March 27, 2015, published a database of nearly 700 of those chemicals, which is a good start and shows how open-source and non-governmental efforts can overcome industry efforts to hide data on toxics.

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