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

June 19, 2013

  • Topics of the latest CRS reports shared by the Federation of American Scientist's Project on Government Secrecy include GMO wheat, earthquake risk and highway infrastructure, carbon capture and sequestration, the regional greenhouse gas initiative, regulation of fertilizers, and more.

  • The revised proposal still allows companies to claim trade secrecy on chemicals in fracking fluid — and to fulfill disclosure requirements on the remainder by submitting them to the controversial FracFocus database, run by the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission and the Groundwater Protection Council.

  • If you want to take advantage of EPA databases to report on local (or even national) environmental conditions, this tool is a step beyond the all-in-one EPA data interfaces many journalists are used to, in that it catalogs some of the less-known specialized databases. It is unusual among government data programs in that it explicitly encourages third-party developers to build apps based on open agency data.

  • [SEE UPDATE: Cal Assembly Walks Back CPRA Attack.] The last-minute sneak attack on open government was crafted and pushed through by Brown's own party. Local governments would be legally able to ignore the major requirements of the Public Records Law which force them to respond to freedom-of-information requests and justify any denial of requests.

June 5, 2013

  • Aftershocks of the April 17, 2013, ammonium nitrate explosion in West, Texas, continue — including investigations by news organizations as well as state and federal agencies. A major multistate investigative project by the Associated Press could only get data for 28 of the 50 states, but within those states it found that more than 600,000 people live within a typical blast zone and more had family in schools and hospitals within one.

  • NC's Senate is considering an industry-sponsored bill that would extend restrictions on undercover investigations beyond livestock operations to include other categories of industry. The state's Chamber of Commerce supports it, saying industries beyond agriculture want protection from the reporting of workplace abuses.

  • Styrene (used to make plastic packaging) was listed in June 2011 as "reasonably anticipated" to be cancer-causing in the biennial federal Report on Carcinogens. Industry not only challenged, but also mounted a political campaign, persuading a powerful House Appropriations subcommittee chairman to withhold spending for the report until NTP reconsidered the styrene listing.

  • The fracking industry loves to argue there's no proof its gas-extraction methods cause pollution. But it works hard in Pennsylvania to keep secret any evidence that might prove the question — one way or the other. Existence of its database was reported by Marie Cusick of WITF in Harrisburg, via NPR's StateImpact Pennsylvania.

May 22, 2013

  • Canada's Information Commissioner Suzanne Legault will be investigating the muzzling of Canadian scientists — a perennial complaint of SEJ's Canadian members who can not freely interview tax-funded scientists about subjects like climate. SEJ has twice urged Environment Canada to end such media policies, receiving no answer.

  • In the wake of the Justice Department's chilling seizure of AP phone records, the Department asserted that a Fox reporter violated the law by reporting the news. The unprecedented assertion was made by FBI agent Reginald B. Reyes in a search warrant application that was ultimately approved by a judge, allowing Reyes to snoop through the phone records of Fox News correspondent James Rosen.

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