Government Studies Vanish From Reporters' View

Finch, Bill; Raines, Ben
June 2004
Nieman Reports;Summer2004, Vol. 58 Issue 2, p20
The article talks about the barriers to reporting on possible hazards and risks of a proposed liquefied natural gas terminal (LNG) encountered by journalists at the Mobile Register in Alabama. Trouble surfaced when Mobile Register reporters asked to review studies on the said terminals. None of the agencies that produced or cited the studies were willing to give them to reporters to read and analyze. The register finally obtained most of the government studies used in analyzing LNG risks. In reporting on the studies' findings, the register has been cautious about revealing the sources of its information out of concern that obscure provisions of the U.S. Patriot Act or the Homeland Security Act might later be used against the sources or the newspaper. Ultimately, the register's reporting helped prompt both the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to sponsor new studies of LNG risks. When register reporters obtained the Quest study from other sources, they discovered that its scope of work and conclusions did not support what DOE and FERC officials had presented to the public. After the register's story appeared in some newspapers around the country, DOE officials acknowledge that the study exists and that they commissioned it.


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