Journalists hurrying to get up to speed on environmental or energy issues can get objective background from reports by the Congressional Research Service (an arm of the Library of Congress), which does not release them to the taxpaying public that funded them. We thank the Federation of American Scientists' Government Secrecy Project for publishing them.
- SEJ Publication Types:Topics on the Beat:Visibility:
Power company Pacificorp has gone to court to prevent the Interior Department from disclosing how many birds are found dead at its wind-energy turbine sites. AP reporter Dina Cappiello has been writing an investigative series on the birds, including eagles, killed at wind farms in the U.S. The series found that federal regulators have not prosecuted or penalized wind-energy companies when their turbines kill birds and — the government has helped keep the scope of bird mortality secret.
It seemed like good news when Baker Hughes, one of the world's largest oilfield services companies, announced in Oct 2014 that it would start disclosing all the chemicals it used in its fracking operation. Now Halliburton, an even larger oilfield services company, is buying Baker Hughes. In a $34.6 billion merger. Or is it a hostile takeover?
Here's an idea: let people know where 100-car trainloads of crude oil might be threatening their safety. After the July 2013 Lac-Mégantic disaster that killed 47, people might want to know about this. And the Federal Railroad Administration officially agrees — saying railroads can't hide this information. Now the Association of Washington Cities has an online map for that.Region:
Yes, the pipeline is publicly regulated. Yes, the March 2013 rupture of Exxon's Pegasus Pipeline in Mayflower, Arkansas, quite publicly polluted people's yards and homes. Yes, it is publicly known that there were defects and poor maintenance on the pipeline. But 900,000 pages of documents that might show Exxon's neglect are being claimed as "confidential" by the company as it tries to defend against a class-action lawsuit.
For decades, Congress has refused to release taxpayer-funded reports by the Congressional Research Service. Fortunately, the Federation of American Scientists' Government Secrecy Project gets them and releases them. Here are some new explainers that may be of use to environmental journalists.
While the idea that government neglect and public ignorance are the right approach to chemical safety and security has lost some credence, information on chemical accidents is still hard to come by. Here are tips as well as news about the National Response Center's database of oil and chemical spills.
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.
- SEJ Publication Types:Topics on the Beat:
There are many good investigative stories to be done about natural gas pipelines in your local area. You can get some maps and data about these pipelines if you try. Hard. The government is not going to help too much. One resource is the National Pipeline Mapping System (NPMS), which allows the general public to see geodata on a county-by-county basis.