Federal agencies are still grinding forward on decisions about disclosure of often-toxic ingredients pumped into the ground during "fracking" to produce gas and oil. Significant decisions may come eventually from the Interior Department, the EPA, and the Obama White House. But don't bet on any courageous decisions until after the November election.
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The video of Steve Lipsky setting his drinking water on fire nearly went viral on You Tube. The fracking company he thinks caused the problem is suing him for defamation. Now that case is headed for the Texas Supreme Court. Oral arguments are scheduled for December 4.Region:
BLM has drafted a "final" rule — but that must be approved by the White House Office of Management and Budget, which often serves as a backroom channel for industry to change regulations. The final product — still undetermined — is likely to be a disappointment to those who had hoped for Obama administration leadership on fracking disclosure.
One of the oldest tricks U.S. industry has used to hide the potential harm to public health done by chemicals it puts into the environment is to claim that their identities are trade secrets via a loophole established under the antiquated Toxic Substance Control Act of 1976. On August 21st, a coalition of groups petitioned EPA for toxic trade secrets to have an expiration date.
Here are some recent explainers of interest to environmental journalists from the CRS, which Congress does not allow to be released to the taxpaying public who paid for them. The WatchDog thanks those who leaked them and the Federation of American Scientists' Project on Government Secrecy for publishing them.Topics on the Beat:
The federal government has not only done very little to protect the public from the mass-casualty threats chemical facilities present to neighboring communities, they've focused efforts on keeping the public from knowing about those threats or the government's own failures to keep them safe. Now the U.S. EPA has signaled that it is about to revise a key rule governing chemical facility safety and security.
When the fertilizer depot in West, Texas, blew up, some schools were damaged beyond repair. Fortunately, none of the kids died. But it raised an issue that has been obvious — and too often ignored by news media — for years. A new tool from the Center for Effective Government will help environmental journalists learn which schools in their area are near facilities that handle toxic, hazardous, explosive, or combustible materials.
Workers exposed occupationally to toxic chemicals and other safety threats are often the first sign of danger to the general population. A new portal combining Labor Department enforcement databases offers environmental journalists a new tool for exploring such stories.
"Inside Story" editor Beth Daley interviews Charleston (WV) Gazette reporter Ken Ward Jr. — who is recognized nationally for his reporting on coal mining, the environment and workplace safety — about his unique work on the Freedom Industries spill story. Photo: The FI tank which leaked a coal-cleaning chemical into the river on Jan. 9, 2014, contaminating the drinking water of 300,000 West Virginians for weeks. Credit: Commercial Photography Services of WV via USCSB.SEJ Publication Types:Region:
Just claiming something as "confidential business information" is not enough. Wyoming's Supreme Court said the state's drillers, and state regulators, bear the burden of showing why they are withholding disclosure of the often-toxic chemicals pumped underground in fracking operations.