December 2012 | Hillman Foundation

Clear It With Sidney

Notes on journalism for the common good, by Lindsay Beyerstein

December 2012

Obama Speaks Out Against Anti-Union Bill in Michigan

Michigan is poised to enact sweeping anti-union legislation, a bill that would transform the state from a historical stronghold of American labor to a so-called “right-to-work state” where union membership is optional even in unionized workplaces. President Obama spoke out against the proposed legislation today:

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — President Barack Obama has repeated his opposition to right-to-work laws as the Republican-controlled Michigan Legislature moved toward adopting the union-curbing measure.

The Michigan House voted Thursday to approve a bill barring unions from collecting mandatory fees from non-members. The Senate also took up the bill, and Republican Gov. Rick Snyder endorsed it Thursday.

White House spokesman Matt Lehrich says Obama has long opposed right to work laws, “and he continues to oppose them now.

Marcy Wheeler, a native Michigander and political blogger, has more on the battle for union rights in her home state.

What Should You Do if You Get Pushed Onto the Subway Tracks?

Brian Palmer of Slate answers the question on every New Yorker’s mind in the wake of the murder of Ki Suk Han: What should you do if you get pushed onto the subway tracks? 

Now that’s what we call public service journalism. 

One in Five Fracking Chemicals is a Secret in Texas, Despite Disclosure Law

 

Like the Colonel’s 11 secret herbs and spices, the recipe for the fracking fluid known as EXP- F0173-11 is closely guarded. The manufacturer maintains that it doesn’t have to disclose certain secret ingredients that give EXP- F0173-11 the great taste and extreme viscosity* that frackers know and love.

A new Texas law requires drilling companies to say exactly which chemicals they are injecting into the ground in persuit of natural gas, but the law has a huge loophole:

Drilling companies in Texas, the biggest oil-and-natural gas producing state, claimed similar exemptions about 19,000 times this year through August, according to their chemical- disclosure reports. Data from the documents were compiled by Pivot Upstream Group, a Houston-based firm that studies the energy industry, and analyzed by Bloomberg News. Nationwide, companies withheld one out of every five chemicals they used in fracking, a separate examination of a broader database shows.

Trade-secret exemptions block information on more than five ingredients for every well in Texas, undermining the statute’s purpose of informing people about chemicals that are hauled through their communities and injected thousands of feet beneath their homes and farms, said Lon Burnam, a Democratic state representative and a co-author of the law. [Bloomberg] 

Companies can get the exemption just by asserting that an ingredient is a trade secret. There’s no independent oversight mechanism to make sure they’re exempting chemicals in good faith. 

*Or whatever it is that makes EXP- F0173-11 a favorite for discerning frackers. That’s probably a secret, too. 

[Photo credit: Bilal Kamoon, Creative Commons.]

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