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

April 13, 2016

March 30, 2016

  • Tens of millions have been spent on lobbying and advertising by the mainstream food industry to defeat a series of state-by-state measures requiring food labels to disclose GMO content. Now, Vermont is poised to implement a GMO-labelling law.

  • The Project on Government Oversight FOIA'd FEMA/DHS in 2006 for documents that might reveal hanky-panky with billions of dollars in Hurricane Katrina recovery contracts. In December 2015, DHS finally wrote POGO to say that disclosing the records would constitute an "unwarranted invasion of privacy."

  • In 2011, EPA produced — and subsequently buried — a draft report on fracking contamination at Pavillion, Wyoming. Now one of the authors of the original draft has co-published a review of the research in the independent journal Environmental Science & Technology. The new study, based on FOIA'd documents, links fracking and polluted wells.

  • The Senate March 15, 2016, unanimously passed a bill (S 337) improving the 50-year-old Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). But the appearance of bipartisan consensus may belie a rocky road to final enactment in a highly politicized election year.

  • If you are an environmental reporter, it is only a matter of time before a reader asks you, "What's up with pentachlorophenol?" Or a grouchy editor demands to know, "What's the difference between trichloroethylene and trichloroethane?" Help is on the way. Read on.

March 16, 2016

  • This special issue of SEJ's WatchDog celebrated "Sunshine Week," the national reminder that freedom of information and open government are essential for a working democracy. Lots of info is available for environmental reporters about pollutants and hazards that can harm people. Our Sunshine toolbox is ... well ... full of flashlights — environmental databases that can help you see things. Categories include chemicals, disasters, energy, health and pollution. Shine on!

March 2, 2016

  • The availability of government data has soared over the last decade — offering a huge opportunity for watchdog journalists to find stories that advance the public interest. The environmental beat is the Saudi Arabia of data (yes, that means vast, rich, accessible, and untapped reserves).

  • The Senate Energy Committee last November approved a different version of the bill which seems to include an exemption from fees and permits for "news gathering." But whether it will pass on the floor or get reconciled with the House bill in an election year is unknown.

  • Scientist Jonathan Lundgren (left), who has been researching the effects of neonicotinoid pesticides on Monarch butterflies, filed a whistleblower complaint and lost. And, Lundgren claimed his supervisors at the USDA's Agricultural Research Service told him not to talk to news media and punished him when he did.