By Jaimi Dowdell, IRE training director
While oil is gushing into the Gulf of Mexico, the government is pouring resources into the cleanup effort. Track how much is being spent, which agencies are awarding it, and where it's going with data from the Federal Procurement Data System. The FPDS's Gulf Oil Spill Report, updated regularly, is downloadable in spreadsheet format. It contains contract information the FPDS has received. (The FPDS warns that there can be a lag in some reporting: "We believe it represents a portion of the work that has been awarded to date.")
Use this data to see which companies are making money off of the disaster. Are any of those companies in your state? Are small, women- or veteran-owned businesses getting a slice of the money? If you're looking for data on oil spills, check out the U.S. Coast Guard's National Response Center. The Center for Public Integrity has compiled information about using this data, along with some caveats here. Don't forget to check out the Resource Center's tipsheet database to uncover tips, sources and secrets that can help you tackle just about any topic. Eric Nalder's classic tipsheet, "Oil on the rock, fire on the water" has 14 pages of information useful for covering oil spills.