Tags : environment

Behind the Story: The Indianapolis Star’s probe into the billion-dollar deer farming industry

Ryan Sabalow

It’s like a gold rush. There’s money to be made, but the cost of those riches is a host of harmful, unintended consequences.

A recent Indianapolis Star investigation uncovered evidence linking lucrative deer farming operations to the spread of invasive lice and diseases such as bovine tuberculosis and chronic wasting disease in wild deer populations. The detailed story, told in five chapters each accompanied by a video, chronicles the rise of commercial deer farming from one Amish farmer with pet deer to the profitable industry that exists today.

“No one really saw this coming,” said Indianapolis ...

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Reporter finds hundreds of unpunished water violations in Minnesota

By Mark Steil

Minnesota Public Radio

I’ve always enjoyed looking through large piles of data in my job as a reporter for Minnesota Public Radio. My primary beats are the agriculture and energy sectors. I’ve been on the job 35 years now, and for most of that time a document hunt generally meant one thing: going to an office and watching someone haul out several cardboard boxes stuffed with folders and paper. I’d sit down and go through every page. But over the past decade, much of that information has moved online. I got a good reminder ...

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Report from U.S. Senate committee claims EPA lacks transparency


Minority members of the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee released a report on Sept. 9, 2013 claiming that the EPA has "a dismal history of competently and timely responding to FOIA requests," has failed to adequately train staff members on FOIA policies, has shown bias in deciding to honor fee waiver requests, and has misused email accounts. 

Central to the committee's complaints is former EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson's use of a secondary email account and occasional use of a fake alias to respond to emails.  Jackson also used a personal account to correspond with a ...
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Flaws in hazardous chemical data

An explosion at a fertilizer facility in West, Texas, killed 14 people in April and destroyed about a third of the town. The town middle school was ruined, the high school was condemned. A nearby apartment building and a senior living center were blown to shreds.

In pursuing this story, Reuters’ data team obtained the TIER II hazardous chemical storage data from 30 states. The data includes a variety of information about hazardous chemicals stored at sites around the country including the chemical name, a description of the chemical, the physical state of the chemical and the location of the ...

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How reporter Steven Hsieh stumbled across his first investigation

Reporter Steven Hsieh was never informed about a dangerous landfill in his hometown of West County in St. Louis until one day while watching cable news.

Hsieh, one-year out of school at the Missouri School of Journalism, stumbled upon a broadcast of a roundtable discussion in which Diane Schanzenbach, associate professor in the School of Education and Social Policy at Northwestern, raised the question of how St. Louis and the Federal government were going to rectify the decades old problem of the West Lake Landfill. It turned into his first investigative piece, which published in Rolling Stone

The story revolves ...

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Online data and tools for environmental investigations

By Gwen Girsdansky

Lisa Song of InsideClimate News, Ingrid Lobet of the Houston Chronicle, David Sheppard of the San Antonio Express-News and Jim Morris of the Center for Public Integrity gave suggestions for online resources available for investigating environmental issues on Thursday at the IRE Conference.

Lobet mentioned a good tactic is thinking about what information you want and then working backward, because a database probably exists for that information. A few databases they suggested:

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Journalism organizations call for greater transparency

Last week, The Association of Health Care Journalists, along with IRE and five other journalism and open-government groups, sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture calling for the release of public information about the country's food stamp program. From the AHCJ blog: 

Currently, the USDA refuses to reveal how much money individual retailers make from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, better known as food stamps. Additionally, the USDA does not disclose which products are purchased with SNAP dollars or how much is spent on each product, in aggregate.

The USDA’s position runs contrary to President ...

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Behind the Story: The big business of 'green' buildings and LEED certification

Can a 50-story Las Vegas hotel be environmentally-friendly?  This is the question USA Today reporter Tom Frank sought to answer when he began reporting on the increase in construction of so-called environmentally friendly buildings.  Through his investigation, Frank found that green commercial construction has increased.  Non-profits are behind the movement, but few have assessed the real impact of their programs.  Often, green building improvements are simply cheap routes to large tax breaks.  Frank’s ongoing Green Inc. series explores the challenges non-profit groups face in helping for-profit businesses “go green.”

His investigation began with an online search of the U ...

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SBA disaster loan data updated in NICAR Database Library

In the wake of a disaster, individuals and business owners are often left with severely damaged property. Many turn for help to the Small Business Administration, which approves low-interest loans to help rebuild. For declared disasters in 2011 alone, the Small Business Administration approved over $1 billion in loans.

NICAR has updated the SBA database of these loans, which is now current through Sept. 2012. 

WHAT'S IN IT?
Disaster loans through the SBA are one of the primary forms of federal assistance for individuals and non-farm, private-sector businesses who have suffered losses. The data have information on the borrower ...

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Behind the Story: The cost of sugar supports

In a recent piece for the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting, Amy Green reports on the cost of sugar supports to American taxpayers.  She is currently working on a book about the Florida Everglades, which will explore political and environmental impacts on the area.

When Amy Green, a native Floridian, thinks of the Florida Everglades, she sees a different side of Florida.  “The Miami International Airport was once underwater,” she says.  She’s been considering this and other political, economic, and environmental impacts of draining the Everglades since at least 2010.

Through this research, Green became interested in the Everglades ...

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