New EPA Rule Could Give Politicals More Veto Power on FOIA Requests

July 24, 2019

"More political appointees at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) could soon have the authority to weigh in on public information requests.

The rule is expected to be published in the Federal Register as early as Wednesday and will not allow for a public comment period.

According to the new language in the FOIA rule signed by EPA chief Andrew Wheeler last week, the administrator and other officials would be allowed to review all materials that fit a FOIA request criteria, known as responsive documents, and then decide “whether to release or withhold a record or a portion of a record on the basis of responsiveness or under one or more exemptions under the FOIA, and to issue ‘no records’ responses.”

Lawyers outside the agency who specialize in FOIA requests say the “no records” response could lead to a situation where records seekers are being told there are no documents meeting their search criteria, even if they were found by EPA staffers who handle FOIA requests, with those documents ultimately withheld by political appointees."

Miranda Green reports for The Hill June 25, 2019.


Editorial: "Trump's EPA Moves To Shroud Its Policies And Practices Further In Darkness" (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

"Emulating the CIA, New Rule Would Let Trump's EPA Disregard FOIA Requests With Near Impunity" (Common Dreams)

"Freedom of Information Act Regulations Update" (EPA/Federal Register)

"The Hill Gets It Wrong On New EPA FOIA Regulation" (EPA release)

"STATEMENT: EPA Attempts To End FOIA As We Know It" (Sierra Club release)

"EPA Politicizes Public Records Rules, Hands Decisions to Trump Appointees" (Center for Biological Diversity release)

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