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

  • 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.

  • Federal agencies are still grinding forward on decisions about disclosure of often-toxic ingredients pumped into the ground during "fracking" to produce gas and oil. Significant decisions may come eventually from the Interior Department, the EPA, and the Obama White House. But don't bet on any courageous decisions until after the November election.

October 2, 2014

  • Eighteen journalism, photography, and First Amendment groups on October 1, 2014, wrote U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell opposing the proposal to finalize a directive requiring permits for "commercial filming" in Forest Service Wilderness areas. Tidwell has already said the USFS does not want to restrict journalism on wilderness lands, but the groups seek changes to regulatory language that would make this clear. SEJ is one of the groups.

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