You may smell that stench from a feedlot near your home, but the farm lobby and some of your elected representatives in Congress don't think you have any right to know who is creating it. This year's Farm Bill could include the most sweeping censorship ever of public information on agricultural pollution and the identities of the corporations that profit from it.
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Got scofflaw polluters in your audience area? Are they owned by political fat cats? Is EPA cutting them more slack than they deserve? Such questions are easier to answer thanks to a recent upgrade of the Environmental Protection Agency's ECHO database, a key tool for environmental investigative reporters.
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A U.S. district judge on October 2, 2013, brushed aside claims by EPA and the Luminant Corp. that information related to pollution from the company's coal-burning power plants was "confidential business information" — which seems to be a growing excuse for withholding public-interest information.
The fracking industry loves to argue there's no proof its gas-extraction methods cause pollution. But it works hard in Pennsylvania to keep secret any evidence that might prove the question — one way or the other. Existence of its database was reported by Marie Cusick of WITF in Harrisburg, via NPR's StateImpact Pennsylvania.Region:
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The Community-Focused Exposure and Risk Screening Tool (C-FERST), available currently to some agencies, communities, and researchers, could be helpful in tracking environmental justice stories: the impact of specific pollutant exposures on particular geographic and demographic communities.
Francesca Lyman asks "What does Hurricane Sandy tell us about coping with human health and consequences of climate change?"SEJ Publication Types:Topics on the Beat:
EPA had already released preliminary TRI data for the latest available year (2011), but its National Analysis makes for easier reporting as data is collated by state. It also offers analyses by industry sector and of toxics handling by collating the parent companies of each facility nationwide.
EPA bowed to industry, ruling in a January 3, 2013 memo that local drinking water utilities no longer have to notify their customers of contamination in writing. "The memo fails to set clear standards for electronic notification and delivery and makes it likely that segments of the public will have less access to these reports," the Center for Effective Government wrote in response to the EPA memo.