Maine passed a law in 2015 that allowed railroads to keep oil-train routing information from the public — over the governor's veto. In the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting's Pine Tree Watchdog, Dave Sherwood reports how the provision was a bait-and-switch.
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Bad as it is, the Flint drinking water disaster is hardly uncommon. Even though the law requires authorities to tell the public of dangerous levels of lead in drinking water, they often don't.Topics on the Beat:Region:
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's openness has been a major issue throughout the crisis of contaminated drinking water in Flint, which has caused lead poisoning of some children. One aspect of the openness issue is the ability of agency employees to speak with journalists; another is unfulfilled FOIA requests.Topics on the Beat:Region:
A similar bill almost became law in 2014, and chances of the current bill being enacted seem good. But the possibility of a last-minute derailment, especially in an election year, remains. To complicate matters, journalism and open government groups found problems with a last-minute "carve-out" for intelligence inserted at the behest of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.
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Do consumers have a right to know where their food comes from? What if there is a federal law decreeing that they have that right? Not anymore. None of that matters. International trade treaties — nowadays often negotiated in secret — trump United States law aimed at protecting consumers.
Federal District Court Judge Scott Skavdahl on December 28, 2015, ruled that a lawsuit filed by journalism and environmental groups challenging the constitutionality of Wyoming's law could continue. The state had moved to dismiss the suit.Topics on the Beat:
Here are some reports of possible interest to environmental journalists from the Congressional Research Service (CRS). Congress does not release them to the public, but the Union of Concerned Scientists' Government Secrecy Project does.Topics on the Beat:
It's never too early for journalists to complain about secrecy. Case in point: the database of drone owners which the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) plans to register. A key task force recently recommended that the database be exempt from the federal Freedom of Information Act.Topics on the Beat:
The University of Missouri "safe space" incident on Nov 9, 2015 rekindled questions and debate about journalists' First Amendment right of access to spaces. One of the best practical guides to law on this issue is the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press publication, "A Reporter's Field Guide."Region: