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

December 4, 2013

  • Environmental journalists who want to explore the impacts of toxic substances on wildlife, fish, and plants can get help from a little-known EPA database. Online and searchable, ECOTOX has gotten better over the years, making it useful for reporters as well as scientists.

  • As efforts to suppress science go, the Interior Department's dunking-stool investigation of scientist Charles Monnett (who published observations that polar bears were drowning because of ice retreat) was quite a story. Now, with a $100,000 settlement, it is a story that may never be fully told, including whether there was evidence of political interference by top Interior officials.

  • OSHA's proposed silica rule "requests" (not requires) that commenters state clearly who paid for any research they cite and declare whether there may be possible conflicts of interest or whether the funder of the research may have influenced its findings. But 16 Senate Republicans have complained of OSHA's request for funding disclosure.

November 20, 2013

  • Some hope for more open government at the federal level emerged November 18, 2013, when the House passed a bill known as the Digital Accountability and Transparency (DATA) Act aimed at improving public data about federal spending. The hope was bolstered by the fact that the bill passed the House by a bipartisan 388-1 recorded vote.

  • A New Jersey chemical company, Elementis Chromium, will have to pay a $2.6 million fine for failing to disclose information about the toxicity of hexavalent chromium to workers, in violation of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).

  • You may smell that stench from a feedlot near your home, but the farm lobby and some of your elected representatives in Congress don't think you have any right to know who is creating it. This year's Farm Bill could include the most sweeping censorship ever of public information on agricultural pollution and the identities of the corporations that profit from it.

  • Environmental journalists may find a story by asking about the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of a nearby coal-burning power plant or major chemical refinery. A new online EPA database gives information about the largest GHG emitters, makes the query easier and the answers more accurate.

November 6, 2013

  • Got scofflaw polluters in your audience area? Are they owned by political fat cats? Is EPA cutting them more slack than they deserve? Such questions are easier to answer thanks to a recent upgrade of the Environmental Protection Agency's ECHO database, a key tool for environmental investigative reporters.

  • Thanks to the Federation of American Scientists' Project on Government Secrecy, here are several recent Congressional Research Service reports relevant to environment and energy.

  • For a decade now, the WatchDog has been telling the story of how the Office of Management and Budget sandbags public health regs, at the behest of business groups who stand to profit, by short-circuiting open legal procedures meant to ensure government integrity. The next chapter was told October 25, 2013, before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Oversight, Federal Rights and Agency Action.