Backgrounders

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Issue Backgrounders are a monthly SEJournal Online feature to help journalists better cover emerging environmental issues, especially challenging or under-reported topics. Each Issue Backgrounder focuses on a specific environmental topic, offering key questions, basic answers, source contacts and other resources. For questions and comments, or to suggest future Issue Backgrounders, email Backgrounder editor Joseph A. Davis at sejournaleditor@sej.org.

 

November 9, 2022

  • Plans are nearing for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to regulate PFAS in drinking water — and the complexity around the effort will challenge environmental journalism. In the mix are questions of environmental persistence and health risks, plus thorny politics. Our Issue Backgrounder has guidance on these and more as PFAS regulation hits this critical juncture.

October 12, 2022

September 14, 2022

  • In the fine print of the historic Biden climate bill is a controversial commitment to pass legislation on fossil fuel permitting, a measure deeply opposed by the environmental community and calling for heavy political muscle to move through Congress this month. Issue Backgrounder details what’s in it, and what’s not, and takes the measure of the measure’s prospects.

July 27, 2022

  • A new World Trade Organization agreement to limit global overfishing may yield important stories for environmental journalists, as billions of people around the world rely on already heavily exploited fish stocks as their main source of protein. This Backgrounder offers details on the pact and how it tries to address the problem, while providing resources for your reporting.

June 15, 2022

  • In a second Issue Backgrounder looking at major environmental questions before the U.S. Supreme Court, SEJournal considers the long-standing controversy about the definition of “waters of the United States.” The Clean Water Act case, which the high court could (re)decide during its next term, would have profound environmental and economic implications. The latest Backgrounder wades into the issue.

May 18, 2022

  • A milestone legal challenge soon to be decided by the U.S. high court could severely limit how the U.S. government regulates the greenhouse gasses that cause climate change. The new Issue Backgrounder takes a look at West Virginia v. EPA, its legal implications, the politics behind it and what it would mean for efforts to curb future impacts of global warming.

April 20, 2022

  • A new ban is to be imposed on the last kind of asbestos still imported into the United States for use in commerce. But as the Issue Backgrounder explains, the regulatory back-and-forth over the substance by recent administrations won’t alleviate the biggest U.S. problem, which is the long history of its use in a wide range of building materials and other uses raising ongoing occupational risks.

March 23, 2022

February 23, 2022

  • The climate-security nexus has drawn attention from the Biden administration, but less so elsewhere, even as security experts worry about climate change as a threat multiplier that can exacerbate other causes of conflict. Our new Backgrounder explores these concerns, with a look at how the issue has played out in recent U.S. politics. Plus, seven global regions where climate change may worsen ongoing conflict.

February 2, 2022

  • The hype on hydrogen — and it’s various “hues” or forms — suggests environmental reporters should clearly understand how this energy source is produced, as well as the politics and industry PR behind its claims to be clean and climate-friendly. Our latest Issue Backgrounder provides the basics of hydrogen science, while cautioning about the industry’s “color game.”

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