Sierra Club Accuses EPA of Failing To Respond to Its FOIA Requests

The Sierra Club said Sept. 18, 2017 it is taking the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to court to hold the agency accountable for its failure, under administrator Scott Pruitt, to respond to basic Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests within the timeline required by law, or to provide estimates of when such requests might be addressed. The environmental group has led a suit with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

“The secrecy around Scott Pruitt and his political staffers is unprecedented, and Americans deserve transparency about their collaboration behind closed doors with corporate polluters to roll back life-saving health and environmental safeguards,” said Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune. “But instead of abiding by the law and the Freedom of Information Act, Pruitt’s EPA is stonewalling by engaging in an unprecedented level of obstruction to prevent this information from becoming known by the public.”

The Sierra Club asserts that, “in an effort to shed light on Pruitt’s secretive and pro-industry efforts to improperly delay or repeal vital EPA regulations and policies that safeguard public health and the environment,” it submitted requests on mid-June under FOIA seeking records of the external communications and calendars of Pruitt and other senior staff at the agency. EPA is said to have been required under the law to provide, within 20 working days, determinations about whether the agency would comply with the requests and to promptly begin producing documents.

“These disturbing delays are unprecedented, unjustified, and unlawful,” said Matthew Miller, a Sierra Club staff attorney. “The Sierra Club will hold Scott Pruitt’s EPA accountable to make sure the public learns the truth about his behind-the-scenes efforts to nullify rules and policies that are vital to the agency’s duty to protect human health and the environment.” Separately, Sierra Club complains it has been refused fee waivers for its FOIA requests.

(SOURCE: The Weekly Propane Newsletter, October 2, 2017)