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 21, 2014

  • It was a crisis. Charleston, WV, residents had just been told not to drink city water because of a chemical spill upstream of its intake. It would seem routine to call the US EPA and ask for information or comment — and that's just what prize-winning Charleston Gazette reporter Ken Ward Jr. did. He waited a week for EPA to get back to him on the record. SEJ wants to know why such communication delays at EPA have become the norm.

  • Spin control and the security state may have taken large bites out of the First Amendment in recent years, but the pushback celebration known as Sunshine Week has never been more robust. Pushing for open government is a trend. Nowhere is this more true than on the environment and energy beats.

March 5, 2014

  • Don't polish your glasses — you read it right. Bipartisan. By a vote of 410-0. The bill makes several modest improvements in the Freedom of Information Act; it should strengthen the presumption in favor of disclosure of government records, authorize a central tracking system for FOIA requests and strengthen the role of the Office of Government Information Services.

  • We all know it. Some agencies and organizations publish data in PDF format to keep journalists and the public from using the raw data. Take heart. Help is on the way with one easy software tool — Tabula.

  • Congress funds and orders up a great array of non-partisan expert explainers on the issues of the day via the Congressional Research Service. Unfortunately, Congress does not think the voting public can handle the truth, and keeps the reports secret. We thank the anonymous leakers who give them to the Project on Government Secrecy.

  • Journalism and open-government groups will mount a host of special projects and forums March 16-22, 2014, to pry loose the secrets of a government that is supposed to be accountable to the public. Here are some key links and events.

February 19, 2014

  • A federal appeals court created a sweeping and dangerous precedent January 22, 2014, when it ruled the U.S. public had no right to know whether it is endangered by failures of federal dam safety agencies to do their jobs. If the ruling stands, federal agencies could withhold from disclosure almost any information showing federal failure to protect the public from infrastructure dangers.

  • The oil and gas industry is not currently required to report toxic emissions from certain smaller operations — such as wells — because they do not fit EPA's definition of a TRI "facility." Yet 14 groups, led by the Environmental Integrity Project, have compiled and released data showing that oil and gas extraction facilities in just six states emitted ~8.5 million tons of toxic chemicals yearly.

  • Will the Federal Aviation Administration make drone journalism illegal? The first answer is likely to come soon. Connecticut journalist Pedro Rivera filed suit February 18, 2014, against Hartford police officers who he said violated his First Amendment rights to gather news.

  • A new USGS database gives you downloadable information on some 47,000 wind turbines in the United States. This allows environmental journalists to come up with all kinds of local, regional, or national stories about wind energy and its impacts.

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