The SEJ WatchDog

 

The WatchDog TipSheet is a monthly source of story ideas, articles, updates, events and other information with a focus on freedom-of-information issues of concern to environmental journalists in both the United States and Canada.

Journalists can receive WatchDog TipSheet free by subscribing to the SEJournal Online, the digital news magazine of the Society of Environmental Journalists. Subscribe to the e-newsletter here

WatchDog TipSheet is also available through the searchable archive below and via RSS feed.

Latest WatchDog TipSheet Items

June 1, 2011

  • Washington Post reporter Ed O'Keefe reports that White House negotiators from both parties substantially slashed the Electronic Government Fund which "helps finance government sites that track federal data, government contracting, government information technology and overall performance."

  • The vote came on an amendment by Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) to the defense authorization bill, in response to a draft executive order from President Obama that would require federal contractors to disclose their campaign contributions. The matter remains unresolved.

  • A World Health Organization panel finds cell phone radiation might present a cancer risk , and spotlights ongoing reluctance by the Federal Communications Commission to share publicly all the health information it has on the subject — and possible complicity with industry in hushing the research.

  • If you find using the Freedom of Information Act daunting, try this open government tool conceived by journalist Michael Morisy and start-up guru Mitchell Kotler. It will embargo a journalist's request before story publication.  

  • In a court agreement filed May 22, 2011, University of Virginia agreed to release documents of former U.Va. researcher/climate scientist Michael Mann. The plaintiff is American Tradition Institute, which raises funds with the slogan "Crush Gang Green and their anti-business allies."

May 18, 2011

  • More access was urged for records on oil and gas leasing, government-issued permits and leases related to metal mining, grazing livestock on public lands, harvesting ocean fish, operating chemical plants, drilling for oil, logging, building roads or strip malls, coal mining, filling wetlands, and more.

  • The spreadsheet covers 676 coal combustion waste impoundments at 240 facilities — making it much easier to cover the issue. After assessing many ponds, EPA rated at least 50 of the ponds as having high hazard potential.

  • Reporting of potentially toxic chemicals in commerce under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA)will not be required during the next reporting period, which runs from June through September.

  • By publishing the list promptly, NRC lived up to the "reading room" provisions of FOIA — which require agencies to actively publish information likely to be the subject of multiple FOIA requests. As a reporter, see what your competitors are doing. As a FOIA requester, you may learn a lot about how to write a FOIA letter that is realistic yet effective.

  • ProPublica reporter Abrahm Lustgarten (left) revealed that some of the biggest fracking companies have been collecting extensive baseline data since 2008, keeping it concealed from public knowledge — including denying Duke University researchers the data when asked for it. The withheld data could either exonerate the companies or prove them responsible for pollution.

Pages