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

March 13, 2013

  • An Associated Press analysis of data on Freedom of Information Act requests showed little increase in the number of FOIA requests from the public, a slight increase in rejection of such requests, and an increase in federal claims that such rejections were justified by security and internal deliberations.

  • Some U.S. scientists are refusing to sign nondisclosure agreements called for by the Canadian government's Fisheries and Oceans department on an Arctic science project. The story was reported by Margaret Munro for Postmedia News.

  • Secret meetings and conflicts of interest for experts on federal advisory committees are still problems, openness advocates told Congress during Sunshine Week 2013. The searchable Federal Advisory Committee Act online database is a great aid for reporters in searching for this type of information on a particular beat.

  • Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and David Vitter (R-LA) and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) on March 7, 2013, released an e-mail exchange they suggest shows EPA lawyers delaying responses to requests for controversial information. They also charge EPA with incompetence and urge U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate.

  • A bipartisan House bill was released March 12, 2013, marking Sunshine Week with proposed steps forward in implementing the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The bill, sponsored by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee's Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Elijah Cummings (D-MD), was put out in draft form for discussion and has yet to be formally introduced.

  • Now you can read reports on key topics on the environmental beat — compiled by the Congressional Research Service and paid for with your tax dollars. Congress does not allow CRS to release them to the public. Thanks to the Government Secrecy Project at the Federation of American Scientists for making them available.

February 27, 2013

  • As new heads for environmental and energy agencies come before the Senate for confirmation, they will likely feel heat over the gulf between the Obama administration's rhetoric on transparency and its iron discipline on message control. Case in point: Gina McCarthy, widely expected to be Obama's nominee for EPA's top administrator slot.

  • A small chink appeared this month in the armor of nondisclosure that protects the oil and gas industry's relationship with federal leasing agencies. BLM had refused to disclose the nominating entities. Federal District Judge Matsch ruled that the Freedom of Information Act requires the disclosure.

  • Interested in water quality at the local and watershed level? Not only does the multi-agency "Water Quality Portal" offer large amounts of measurements of water quality in specific lakes and streams — but EPA is offering free training on how to use it via a Webinar.

  • Such a move had been resisted for years by the few large companies that dominate the scientific publishing industry. Some open-access groups hailed the memo as a breakthrough that would really allow taxpayers to read the research they pay for. Still, the proof will be in the implementation.