Perchlorates Offer Early Test of EPA Openness

January 28, 2009

Perchlorates and secrecy have been an explosively combustible mix since at least 1982, when Rita Lavelle was named to head EPA's Superfund program, tasked with cleaning up sites contaminated by perchlorates put there by her former employer. The scandal toppled EPA administrator Anne Gorsuch Burford.

Incoming EPA administrator Lisa Jackson faces an immediate test on perchlorate secrecy, according to a story by Suzanne Yohannan in the subscription-only Inside EPA of Jan. 26, 2009.

"In a Jan. 16 ruling in Goodrich Corp., et al. v. U.S. EPA," Yohannan writes, "the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia rejected EPA's argument that the attorney work product exemption under FOIA shields it from releasing to a potentially responsible party a key scientific model related to the migration of perchlorate contamination, after the agency gave the same model to a state regulator."

Now the question is whether EPA and the Justice Department will appeal the decision. President Obama on his first day in office urged agencies to hew to a new standard of openness.