GOP congressman chastises EPA on conservative FOIA requests

The Obama administration’s conduct “rewards its friends and punishes it enemies” Kentucky Republican Rep. Ed Whitfield said on the House floor.

Whitfield stood to speak up against the Environmental Protection Agency regarding reports that the agency made it more difficult for conservative groups to obtain government records.

“I rise today to express in the very strongest terms possible my disapproval of a pattern of conduct of the Obama administration that is of great concern to all of us: A pattern of conduct in which this administration rewards its friends and punishes its opponents,” said Whitfield.

“We are now finding out that EPA routinely grants fee waivers to its favored left-wing groups who demand a more intrusive and powerful EPA, but systematically deny waivers for free information from any group that EPA disagrees with,” Whitfield added. “America will not stand for a government that rewards its friends and punishes its opponents in this discriminatory fashion.”

On Tuesday, it was reported that the EPA was routinely denying fee waiver requests for Freedom of Information Act requests from conservative groups while overwhelmingly approving them for environmental groups.

Since January 2012, the EPA has granted fee waivers for 75 out of 82 Freedom of Information Act requests sent by major environmental groups, denying only seven of them — meaning green groups saw their fees waived 92 percent of the time — according to information obtained by the free-market Competitive Enterprise Institute.

While helping along green groups, the EPA was denying fee waivers to conservative groups, including the Competitive Enterprise Institute, the Institute for Energy Research, and Judicial Watch. The EPA rejected or ignored 21 out of 26 fee waiver requests from conservative groups — an 81 percent rejection rate.

CEI senior fellow Chris Horner said the EPA’s actions were “a clear pattern of favoritism for allied groups” and “a concerted campaign to make life more difficult for those deemed unfriendly.”

Furthermore, these fee waivers were granted to green groups on the “initial determination” stage, meaning they did not have to appeal the EPA’s decision. Horner said that he had to appeal many fee waiver denials.

Many of the green groups identified by CEI regularly sue the EPA to get the agency to enforce stricter environmental standards. This practice is called “sue and settle” and occurs when the EPA quickly settles a lawsuit with an outside group and is ordered by the court to promulgate new regulations.

Republicans have been critical of this practice, arguing it allows environmental groups to set the regulatory agenda while locking out industrial and business interests.

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