The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sent The Daily Caller News Foundation a Christmas present this year by finally responding to a records request from more than two years ago.
Well, it wasn’t all holiday cheer. EPA said TheDCNF needed to narrow down its two-year-old request for emails between Obama administration officials and environmental groups regarding the Clean Power Plan.
Federal agencies are required by law to respond to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests within twenty working days. TheDCNF filed its FOIA request on May 29, 2015, and EPA responded on Dec. 21, 2017 — that’s 646 working days.
EPA’s response is only 626 days late. It’s a Christmas miracle!
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TheDCNF filed the FOIA request in the months leading up to the Obama EPA’s announcing the Clean Power Plan (CPP), a regulation aimed at cutting carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants. The rule was expected to hasten the closure of coal-fired power plants.
The New York Times reported in summer 2014 that EPA based the CPP on a report circulated by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). The NYT report sparked congressional inquiries into possible collusion between NRDC and EPA in crafting the rule.
TheDCNF filed its FOIA to see the extent to which environmental groups worked with Obama administration officials on the CPP. The Obama EPA, however, sat on the request for years.
Conservatives were critical of the Obama administration’s handling of FOIA requests. Chris Horner, a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), found that EPA in particular made it harder for conservatives to obtain information, while expediting environmentalists’ requests.
CEI is no stranger to FOIA litigation either. The libertarian group sued EPA in 2015 over the agency’s slow-walking a FOIA request for emails from former EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson’s alias account “Richard Windsor.”
EPA’s planned to release 120,000 records associated with CEI’s request at a pace of 100 per month — meaning the request will be fulfilled in about 100 years.
So why is EPA responding to TheDCNF’s request now? EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt made a commitment to respond to the backlog of FOIAs left behind during the Obama years.
In November, EPA said it had processed 70 percent of the the 652 requests left open at the beginning of 2017, some of which had been left open for years.
EPA is also dealing with a record number of FOIA requests this year. The agency received nearly 11,500 requests, which is nearly 1,000 more than they got in 2016. EPA’s 2017 FOIA load is the biggest since 2007.
The Trump administration began repealing the CPP in October and is soon expected to propose a plan to replace it.
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