FOIA Advisor

FOIA News: EPA Pushes Back Against Criticism of FOIA Regulation

FOIA News (2019)Kevin SchmidtComment

EPA's Response to Society of Environmental Journalists

This week several media outlets misrepresented EPA's new FOIA regulation, and were forced to correct their misreporting. This new regulation brings the Agency into compliance with the Congressional amendments to FOIA from 2007, 2009, and 2016. Congress provided all federal departments and agencies until the end of 2016 to update their FOIA regulations. The Obama administration failed to meet this deadline. 

Yesterday, the Society of Environmental Journalists (SEJ), whose mission states that they strive to "strengthen the quality" of environmental journalism, sent a letter to EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler which included numerous inaccuracies that were regurgitated from false articles. Below is EPA's response to the SEJ, signed by EPA career officials.

BELOW IS THE LETTER IN FULL: 

Dear Director Parker: 

On behalf of the Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, we write in response to your letter dated, June 26, 2019. Together we manage the Agency’s National Freedom of Information Act Office, which advises the Agency on legal issues pertaining to FOIA requests, coordination, and project management. Additionally, we are the two career attorneys tasked with providing the recommendations to update the Agency’s FOIA regulations.  

This week EPA finalized an updated FOIA regulation that brings the Agency into compliance with a series of Congressional amendments. Unfortunately, a series of false and misleading claims have relayed inaccurate information to the public about this updated regulation. The Agency believes it is important to address these significant misrepresentations and emphasize that the update to the Agency’s FOIA regulation in no way expands or increases the authority of political officials in the FOIA process. The Agency’s updated regulation does not grant political officials’ additional authority to review or withhold FOIA documents, their authority will remain consistent with the authority granted to them under the past regulation.  

Read the full response here.