The SEJ WatchDog

 

The WatchDog TipSheet is a monthly source of story ideas, articles, updates, events and other information with a focus on freedom-of-information issues of concern to environmental journalists in both the United States and Canada.

Journalists can receive WatchDog TipSheet free by subscribing to the SEJournal Online, the digital news magazine of the Society of Environmental Journalists. Subscribe to the e-newsletter here

WatchDog TipSheet is also available through the searchable archive below and via RSS feed.

Latest WatchDog TipSheet Items

June 3, 2015

  • The Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) and SEJ sent a letter to Josh Earnest (pictured), White House Press Secretary, May 29, 2015, asking for a meeting to discuss restrictions that infringe on journalists' abilities to report on the federal government. The letter follows up on earlier pleas from some 38 journalism groups to the White House for more openness.

  • The Congressional Research Service, a taxpayer-funded agency, produces a steady stream of fact-filled and objective background reports on many issues of interest to environment and energy reporters but refuses to share them with the public. But there are other ways to access them...

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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

May 6, 2015

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

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