The SEJ WatchDog

 

The WatchDog TipSheet is a biweekly 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. To subscribe to the e-newsletter, email your name and preferred email address to sej@sej.org

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

Latest WatchDog TipSheet Items

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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

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