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 14, 2014

  • The U.S. EPA has put online a "Data Finder" tool that simplifies finding and accessing data that may help you report your particular story. Find datasets by searching in many dimensions: media (air, water), health risks, pollutants, and others. It has an easy browse feature, and links to even more datasets than does EPA's mainstream Envirofacts portal.

  • You might have noticed that Republicans, real estate developers, farmers, and others have gotten steamed lately about U.S. EPA's effort to define its jurisdiction over U.S. waters. Whatever your views on this controversy, it will mean a lot of good local stories. Now there's an improved data tool for gathering information about those waters that may not be big enough to row a boat on, but still are critical to the environment.

April 30, 2014

  • When the fertilizer depot in West, Texas, blew up, some schools were damaged beyond repair. Fortunately, none of the kids died. But it raised an issue that has been obvious — and too often ignored by news media — for years. A new tool from the Center for Effective Government will help environmental journalists learn which schools in their area are near facilities that handle toxic, hazardous, explosive, or combustible materials.

  • One worker was killed February 11, 2014, when a Chevron gas well exploded near Bobtown, Pennsylvania, and burned for five days.  But inspectors from the state's Department of Environmental Protection were stopped by Chevron from approaching the site — thus keeping them from seeing possible safety violations. The DEP acquiesced at the time, but later cited Chevron for nine violations at the site.

  • Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action wants higher courts to hear its argument that the Navy is required by the National Environmental Policy Act to disclose more information about the impacts of a nuclear submarine facility upgrade at the Kitsap-Bangor Naval Base in Washington state, especially the risk of explosion.

  • On April 4, 2014, the Alamo Area Council of Governments, the regional area which is supposed to control smog, released its study results — which suggested drilling in the Eagle Ford shale did indeed contribute a lot to smog. Days later, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, which had funded the study, cut AACOG's budget by 25 percent.

  • Workers exposed occupationally to toxic chemicals and other safety threats are often the first sign of danger to the general population. A new portal combining Labor Department enforcement databases offers environmental journalists a new tool for exploring such stories.

April 16, 2014

  • U.S. Capitol officials apologized for the brief detention March 28, 2014, of BNA energy reporter Ari Natter, effectively conceding that such incidents should not occur. Apologies came from both Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Terry Gainer and Capitol Police Chief Kim C. Dine in separate e-mail responses to an April 8 letter of complaint  from SEJ.

  • For years, under multiple administrations, White House officials have subverted open government by holding illegal "ex parte" meetings with special interests affected by agency rulemakings. The meetings are still secret but now they have made the existing online database of meetings and calls searchable by agency, sub-agency, date range, stage of rulemaking, and regulatory identifier. The catch? You can only search for meetings that happened AFTER April 1, 2014.

  • Exxon had said it was planning to restart the aging pipeline — which was given to seam ruptures — by the end of March. But the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration has so far refused requests to make public the restart plan. Elizabeth Douglass wrote about PHMSA's secrecy in InsideClimate News. Photo: The Pegasus pipeline, exposed and suspended in Houston County, 7 miles NW of Crockett, TX, in May 2013. Credit: Safe Community Alliance.

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