For Immediate Release,
June 25, 2019
WASHINGTON— The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced a sweeping revision today to the rules governing how it responds to requests for public records under the Freedom of Information Act.
“This is unnecessary meddling by an administration that has abused the public-records process like no other in history,” said Meg Townsend, open government attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “They’re not going to fix EPA’s broken FOIA process by placing decisions in the hands of political appointees.”
While the revisions are purportedly designed to bring the agency’s already poor FOIA practices into compliance with recent developments in the law, they are raising red flags among environmental and transparency groups like the Center, particularly because they are proposed under the Trump administration.
Even more concerning is the fact that EPA proposes these rule changes without allowing the public to comment.
“The EPA is allowing political operatives to decide what the public can know about government dealings, but denying public comments on these rule changes,” Townsend said. “These and similar regulations at Interior are particularly worrying because former oil and coal lobbyists are in charge. Given the Trump administration’s track record, we expect this will only lead to more records being hidden from the public.”
Recently EPA’s FOIA practices have come under fire with the congressional House Oversight and Reform Committee. Last fall then-acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler’s chief of staff said to investigators with the committee that certain FOIA requests were put under more intense scrutiny by political appointees because they were “politically charged.”