WatchDog: Climate Scientist Canned, SCOTUS To Rule on Chemical ‘Secrets’ and Army Corps Sued Over Permit Info
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1. Climate Scientist Who Bucked Censorship Out of a Job
It was a textbook case of the Trump administration censoring climate science. The National Park Service was developing a report on how climate change might affect park system units, using the contract services of Maria Caffrey, a climate scientist at University of Colorado Boulder. The report (pictured, at right) originated under the Obama administration.
Reveal reporter Elizabeth Shogren last year documented how the Trump administration held up the report and tried to edit out references to anthropogenic climate change (even though sea level rise was at the core of the report). Shogren also reported Caffrey’s resistance to censoring the science.
Consternation and congressional investigations followed, and the report was eventually published uncensored as a result.
Now Caffrey is out of a job. Shogren reports that it is easier to fire contract employees, and that the Park Service would acknowledge no connection between the firing and the resistance. They said it was lack of funding.
But, as Shogren tells it, the whole story is representative of systematic efforts by the Trump administration to suppress climate science.
2. Supreme Court To Weigh FOIA ‘Trade Secrets’ Exemption
For decades, environmental reporters have been denied information about chemicals in commercial use — and, as a consequence, their health effects — because industry claims they amount to “trade secrets.” Now the U.S. Supreme Court will take up the trade secrets issue as it relates to the Freedom of Information Act.
One of the exemptions to FOIA, exemption 4, protects trade secrets. It has never been tested before the Supreme Court, according to the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.
Separately, several key environmental statutes also protect from public disclosure information about trade secrets. It is possible that a Supreme Court decision could also affect interpretation of these laws. The Reporters Committee plans to file a friend-of-the-court brief in the case.
3. Enviros Sue Corps of Engineers Over Louisiana Plastics Plant Permit Info
An environmental group has sued the Army Corps of Engineers for information it sought under the Freedom of Information Act about a permit for a new plastics plant in Louisiana.
The Center for Biological Diversity filed the suit Feb. 12, saying that the Corps had not turned over all the info it wanted about the application for a Clean Water Act dredge-and-fill permit for the Formosa Plastics plant planned near the Mississippi River.
* From the weekly news magazine SEJournal Online, Vol. 4, No. 9. Content from each new issue of SEJournal Online is available to the public via the SEJournal Online main page. Subscribe to the e-newsletter here. And see past issues of the SEJournal archived here.