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

July 3, 2013

  • On June 25, 2013 — the day President Obama gave his climate speech — officials from the Office of Management and Budget, the Council on Environmental Quality, and the Environmental Protection Agency held a closed-door meeting with lobbyists from the oil and chemical industries who don't want the public to know how they calculate their greenhouse gas emissions.

  • Exxon claims trade secrecy in its bid to hide inspection results for the pipeline that leaked 5,000 barrels of Canadian oil sands crude in Arkansas last spring, spurring debate over transparency and spill readiness. EnergyWire's Elana Schor has the story, raising questions that have still to be answered.

  • After a decade of neglect, the NPMS is partly back online and marginally functional. Parts of it don't even work. But if you want to get a general clue about the location of major natural gas and hazardous liquid pipelines in your community, the NPMS is one place to start. And, there are other ways to get the info you need.

  • If you are looking for yet another category of environmental information that the U.S. public is not allowed to know about, try international trade agreements. A recent court decision — one that got little attention from the news media — upheld the federal government's authority to keep secret some information about the health and environmental impacts of trade treaties.

June 19, 2013

  • Topics of the latest CRS reports shared by the Federation of American Scientist's Project on Government Secrecy include GMO wheat, earthquake risk and highway infrastructure, carbon capture and sequestration, the regional greenhouse gas initiative, regulation of fertilizers, and more.

  • The revised proposal still allows companies to claim trade secrecy on chemicals in fracking fluid — and to fulfill disclosure requirements on the remainder by submitting them to the controversial FracFocus database, run by the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission and the Groundwater Protection Council.

  • If you want to take advantage of EPA databases to report on local (or even national) environmental conditions, this tool is a step beyond the all-in-one EPA data interfaces many journalists are used to, in that it catalogs some of the less-known specialized databases. It is unusual among government data programs in that it explicitly encourages third-party developers to build apps based on open agency data.

  • [SEE UPDATE: Cal Assembly Walks Back CPRA Attack.] The last-minute sneak attack on open government was crafted and pushed through by Brown's own party. Local governments would be legally able to ignore the major requirements of the Public Records Law which force them to respond to freedom-of-information requests and justify any denial of requests.

June 5, 2013

  • Aftershocks of the April 17, 2013, ammonium nitrate explosion in West, Texas, continue — including investigations by news organizations as well as state and federal agencies. A major multistate investigative project by the Associated Press could only get data for 28 of the 50 states, but within those states it found that more than 600,000 people live within a typical blast zone and more had family in schools and hospitals within one.

  • NC's Senate is considering an industry-sponsored bill that would extend restrictions on undercover investigations beyond livestock operations to include other categories of industry. The state's Chamber of Commerce supports it, saying industries beyond agriculture want protection from the reporting of workplace abuses.