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

November 5, 2014

  • "News coverage on [National Forest System] lands is protected by the Constitution," wrote U.S. Forest Service Chief Thomas L. Tidwell in a November 4, 2014, memo to agency leaders, "and it is our responsibility to safeguard this right on the lands we manage for all Americans. Journalists provide a critical public service, and this agency will ensure their access in the pursuit of that public service."

  • Yes, the pipeline is publicly regulated. Yes, the March 2013 rupture of Exxon's Pegasus Pipeline in Mayflower, Arkansas, quite publicly polluted people's yards and homes. Yes, it is publicly known that there were defects and poor maintenance on the pipeline. But 900,000 pages of documents that might show Exxon's neglect are being claimed as "confidential" by the company as it tries to defend against a class-action lawsuit.

  • The Society of Environmental Journalists wrote President Barack Obama October 23, 2014, urging him to take a strong position supporting legislation that would strengthen the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Bipartisan FOIA improvements may be one of the few pieces of legislation with a chance to clear the lame duck 113th Congress before control shifts to Republicans in 2015.

  • Here's an idea: let people know where 100-car trainloads of crude oil might be threatening their safety. After the July 2013 Lac-Mégantic disaster that killed 47, people might want to know about this. And the Federal Railroad Administration officially agrees — saying railroads can't hide this information. Now the Association of Washington Cities has an online map for that.

October 22, 2014

  • It's true — some public information officers are really paranoid. High Country News reporter Tristan Baurick, trying to report on preservation of a historic chalet in Olympic National Park, found "a bizarre blockade on press freedom, the likes of which I’d never experienced outside a military base or murder scene."

  • Of the 457 investigations closed by the Interior Department's Inspector General's office last year, the office released public reports on only three. Not only were many of the reports withheld or redacted, but even the list of investigations was redacted before it was released.

  • The Center for Effective Government has compiled an interactive mapping database of some of the most dangerous chemical facilities in the U.S., showing their proximity to schools. The group also mapped which Congressional districts contain the most schoolkids at risk.

  • For decades, Congress has refused to release taxpayer-funded reports by the Congressional Research Service. Fortunately, the Federation of American Scientists' Government Secrecy Project gets them and releases them. Here are some new explainers that may be of use to environmental journalists.

October 8, 2014

  • While the idea that government neglect and public ignorance are the right approach to chemical safety and security has lost some credence, information on chemical accidents is still hard to come by. Here are tips as well as news about the National Response Center's database of oil and chemical spills.

  • The coming lame-duck session is the last opportunity for Congress to enact a bipartisan bill that would make modest improvements in the Freedom of Information Act. Will transparency trump gridlock when Congress returns after the November 4, 2014, midterm elections? That remains to be seen.

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