FOIA is under fire. And for journalists who rely on open records to do their work, the coming year may prove a crucial test of policies at key federal agencies on the beat. This special WatchDog TipSheet takes a deep dive on looming FOIA controversies at Interior and EPA, flagging potential flashpoints for 2020.
"Last week, Sen. Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawai‘i) and 21 of her US Senate colleagues sent a letter to Dr. James Reilly, the director of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), to express their concern over recent reports that USGS will only utilize climate models that project the effects of climate change through 2040."
"Alaska Natives and environmental groups sued the Trump administration on Wednesday, accusing it of concealing information about the effects of oil development in the long-protected Arctic National Wildlife Refuge."
"Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden (D) declared today he will block the confirmation of Daniel Jorjani to become the Interior Department's solicitor over concerns about how the agency handles Freedom of Information Act requests."
"Environmentalists went to court today in hopes of squeezing myriad pesticides-related documents out from several allegedly unresponsive federal agencies."
"House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) demanded Tuesday that the heads of two federal intelligence agencies provide documents detailing how White House officials sought to edit — and then suppress — written testimony saying that human activities are warming the planet and that the climate changes underway pose a grave national security threat."
"While the Trump administration is not known for velvety smooth relations with the news media, federal agencies are far more likely to ignore reporters than to officially scold them. Not the EPA. Reporters whom the agency deems to have misreported can expect to hear about it, and not just through a polite phone call or an email requesting a correction. Instead, the EPA goes public."
"Inquiries to the Environmental Protection Agency office that protects science have spiked during the Trump administration amid widespread reports that political appointees have interfered with the work of career employees."
"A bipartisan group of senators is pushing back against the new public records policy at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), saying it may violate the law by giving political appointees the power to hold back requested information.
“The rule purports to make numerous changes to the EPA’s FOIA process that appear to run contrary to the letter and spirit of FOIA, thus undermining the American people’s right to access information from the EPA,” the senators wrote in a letter to EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler, referring to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
"Washington, DC — The odds of scientists successfully correcting breaches in scientific integrity are slim to none, according to an analysis by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). Very few scientists report research misconduct under official agency scientific integrity policies and almost none of those complaints are investigated, and even fewer sustained."