Backgrounders

Whither the Permitting Reform Bill in 2023?

The complex legal obstacles that face U.S. energy projects prompted political machinations over permitting reform in the last Congress and likely will again in the new one. The latest Backgrounder explores how the energy permitting system works (or doesn’t), why Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin may really be pushing for its reform and the reason some environmentalists concede reform may have green benefits.

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Disinformation Presents New Challenges to Environmental Journalists

An explosion of deliberately misleading information has hit the environmental journalism beat, argues the new Backgrounder. A look at how today’s untruth industry has evolved from that of the past, particularly in the area of climate change, and how reporters have now turned it into its own specialty coverage area. Plus, seven tips on what you can do to handle disinformation on your beat.

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EPA To Propose Plan Soon for First PFAS Drinking Water Rule

Plans are nearing for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to regulate PFAS in drinking water — and the complexity around the effort will challenge environmental journalism. In the mix are questions of environmental persistence and health risks, plus thorny politics. Our Issue Backgrounder has guidance on these and more as PFAS regulation hits this critical juncture.

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COP 27 Egypt — From Afar, How UN Meeting Will Affect Climate Change Reporting

How will the UN’s yearly climate treaty talks in Egypt next month touch domestic U.S. reporting? The latest Backgrounder has an outlook, with close attention to the question of compensation for nations suffering the worst impacts of global warming, plus the politics of war and energy, methane and HFCs. The prospects for action in and after Egypt.

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Will Congress Pass Manchin’s Energy Permitting 'Side Deal'?

In the fine print of the historic Biden climate bill is a controversial commitment to pass legislation on fossil fuel permitting, a measure deeply opposed by the environmental community and calling for heavy political muscle to move through Congress this month. Issue Backgrounder details what’s in it, and what’s not, and takes the measure of the measure’s prospects.

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WTO Deal on Fishing Subsidies May Reduce Ocean Overfishing

A new World Trade Organization agreement to limit global overfishing may yield important stories for environmental journalists, as billions of people around the world rely on already heavily exploited fish stocks as their main source of protein. This Backgrounder offers details on the pact and how it tries to address the problem, while providing resources for your reporting.

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Supreme Court Winds Up for Another Swing at Clean Water Act

In a second Issue Backgrounder looking at major environmental questions before the U.S. Supreme Court, SEJournal considers the long-standing controversy about the definition of “waters of the United States.” The Clean Water Act case, which the high court could (re)decide during its next term, would have profound environmental and economic implications. The latest Backgrounder wades into the issue.

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Climate Change Action May Depend on Supreme Court

A milestone legal challenge soon to be decided by the U.S. high court could severely limit how the U.S. government regulates the greenhouse gasses that cause climate change. The new Issue Backgrounder takes a look at West Virginia v. EPA, its legal implications, the politics behind it and what it would mean for efforts to curb future impacts of global warming.

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EPA Moves To Eliminate Asbestos Risk to Human Health, But Its Legacy Remains

A new ban is to be imposed on the last kind of asbestos still imported into the United States for use in commerce. But as the Issue Backgrounder explains, the regulatory back-and-forth over the substance by recent administrations won’t alleviate the biggest U.S. problem, which is the long history of its use in a wide range of building materials and other uses raising ongoing occupational risks.

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Parks and Complications — Planning Stories Around Our Nation’s Green Spaces

As more Americans make their way to the nation’s parks (and every other variety of outdoor locales), big budget bumps may not be enough to tackle a variety of ongoing worries, from overcrowding and climate change impacts to maintenance backlogs and political backlash. The latest Issue Backgrounder looks over the state of our nation’s parks.

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