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

April 2, 2015

  • Washington Post reporter Paul Farhi has published a story detailing the unfolding of the Obama spin-control saga and the resulting uneasy standoff. Several SEJ members are mentioned, as is Tom Reynolds (pictured), Associate Administrator for EPA's Office of Public Affairs, who justified press office chaperoning of agency experts and portrayed the typical reporter as inexperienced and ignorant.

  • The U.S. EPA has been stonewalling a June 2014 SEJ request for documents describing its policies for dealing with news media. Now SEJ is appealing the long delay in responding to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request by calling it what it is — a denial of information.

March 11, 2015

  • There used to be a searchable, online database of oil and chemical spill reports that reporters could turn to in an emergency to get insight into important breaking news. But ham-handed security efforts have sabotaged the public's right to know. Right now, emergency responders are working on a spill of a cancer-causing fuel additive known as MTBE. But news reporters probably couldn't get much if any helpful information from the database today (we checked).

  • The score came from the Center for Effective Government, which now awards the scores annually. Much of the score is based on the agency's performance under the Freedom of Information Act. EPA was one of the few agencies whose grade actually went down since 2014.

  • 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.

  • 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.

February 25, 2015

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

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