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Issue Backgrounder is a monthly SEJournal Online feature to help journalists better cover emerging environmental issues, especially challenging or under-reported topics. Each Backgrounder focuses on a specific environmental topic, offering key questions, basic answers, source contacts and other resources.

For questions and comments, or to suggest future Issue Backgrounders, email Backgrounder Editor Joseph A. Davis at sejournaleditor@sej.org.

 

January 18, 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.

December 14, 2022

  • 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.

November 9, 2022

  • 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.

October 12, 2022

September 14, 2022

  • 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.

July 27, 2022

  • 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.

June 15, 2022

  • 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.

May 18, 2022

  • 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.

April 20, 2022

  • 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.

March 23, 2022

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