Transparency in Information: Delayed Response From the EPA|Ryan Sharp

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Photo by Jennifer Hubacher on Pexels.com

Recent issues regarding the release of information from the Environmental Protection Agency have gained the attention of House Oversight Democrats.   Allegedly EPA chief Scott Pruitt directed his staff to process and respond slowly to Freedom of Information Act requests. The Environmental Working Groups reports that two of Pruitt’s former aides attest their former boss, “told the agency’s staff not to comply with any FOIAs targeting the Trump administration until all the backlogged requests from the Obama administration have been finished (Formuzis, 2018)”. Under FOIA rules a response from the agency to a request is required within twenty working days excluding weekends and holidays based off the day the request was received (EPA.gov, 2018). However, FOIA requests that are too complex or the search for may extend beyond the 20 days, the agency must inform the requester and allow them to either wait for the documents or narrow the search to expedite the process (FOIA.gov, 2018).  

Although agencies have some leeway in time to respond to query’s, but the EPA higher echelons went beyond that. Certain requests were “hand-selected” by political appointees to have a separate team other than the standard EPA FOIA response team handle the request to show favorable action to particular lobbyist groups (Wagner, 2018). Furthermore Wagner (2018) reports, Pruitt’s chief of staff Ryan Jackson has admitted to personally handling a request from the National Pork Producers Council, whose vice president is Michael Formica, a friend of Jackson. By either purposefully delaying certain requests or placing others ahead in the processing line the EPA is firstly failing to uphold the premise of the Freedom of Information Act of providing information to the public and keeping the citizens in the know by providing a transparent government (FOIA.gov, 2018). Therefore, when information is withheld it takes away from the public having the ability to make informed decisions on issues that affect their lives and those around them and diminishes the prosperities of a democratic society. 

  References 

  1. (2017, June 28). EPA Headquarters [Photograph found in Creative Commons]. Retrieved July 17, 2018, from https://www.spotlightnews.com/towns/saratoga-county/2017/06/28/new-york-environment-groups-campaign-to-protect-u-s-environmental-protection-agency/

EPA.gov. (2018, June 06). Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Retrieved July 16, 2018, from https://www.epa.gov/foia  

FOIA.gov. (2018). FOIA.gov (Freedom of Information Act) Home Page. Retrieved July 16, 2018, from https://foia.gov/  

Formuzis, A. (2018, June 11). Ex-Aides: Pruitt Ordered EPA to Deliberately Slow Compliance with FOIA Requests. Retrieved July 15, 2018, from https://www.ewg.org/release/ex-aides-pruitt-ordered-epa-deliberately-slow-compliance-foia-requests#.W0v71C2ZMlU 

Stantisd, S. (2014, December 14). Lawmakers: Leave the Freedom of Information Act alone [Photograph found in Chicago Tribune]. Retrieved July 17, 2018, from http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/editorials/ct-foia-illinois-edit-1203-20141202-story.html  

Wagner, E. (2018, July 13). Oversight Democrats Demand Subpoena on EPA FOIA Practices. Retrieved July 15, 2018, from https://www.govexec.com/oversight/2018/07/oversight-democrats-demand-subpoena-epa-foia-practices/149716/