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:
More evidence of Congress' ineffectiveness comes in its ongoing failure to keep its secrets actually secret. Its official policy is to keep the Congressional Research Service from publicly releasing the handy explainers it produces at taxpayer expense. Thanks again to the Federation of American Scientists' Government Secrecy Project for unauthorized publication of these reports.Topics on the Beat:
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.
In this excerpt from the latest issue of SEJournal (Spring), we debut the new EJ Academy column (a place for educators and students to explore current research on environmental journalism) with University of Michigan's Emilia Askari sharing how she and SEJ member Julie Halpert teach news innovation à la Knight Challenge style.SEJ Publication Types:Region:
"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:
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.
While EPA and local utilities make much data available online, the Environmental Working Group has compiled a tap water database that is much easier to use. It gathers data from the states as well as from EPA, and compiles city-by-city rankings of the best and worst drinking water quality. It also explains the health significance of contaminants and lists contaminants not regulated by EPA.Region:
Reporters scrambling to inform the 300,000 citizens of Charleston, West Virginia, about why they could not drink their tap water, what health threats it presented, and who was responsible faced a stone wall from most of the responsible government agencies in the early days of the crisis.