EPA inspector general to look into FOIA scandal

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Michael Bastasch DCNF Managing Editor
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The Environmental Protection Agency’s inspector general has been asked to look into claims that the agency stymied efforts by conservative groups to obtain government records while giving favorable treatment to environmental groups.

Acting EPA administrator Bob Perciasepe announced in a congressional hearing Thursday that he was asking the inspector general to look into the matter, reports the Hill, but Perciasepe said that it’s not the agency’s policy “in any way, shape or form” to treat people differently in fee waiver requests.

“I am going to get an independent look at all that information so I can get a determination,” said Perciasepe. He also added that because of the agency’s shift to an online system, groups are often not charged any fees even if they are not formally waived.

However, in the wake of the reports that the Internal Revenue Service targeted conservative groups, GOP lawmakers have jumped on the EPA’s actions as another example of the Obama administration’s abuses.

“When we take this in the context of what has just been exposed at the IRS … it seems at the EPA, the same thing is happening,” said Louisiana Republican Rep. Steve Scalise.

“We know the Obama EPA has completely mismanaged FOIA, but granting fee waivers for their friends in the far-left environmental community, while simultaneously blocking conservative leaning groups from gaining access to information is really no different than the IRS disaster,” said Louisiana Republican Sen. David Vitter.

“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 Kentucky Rep. Ed Whitfield.

The free-market Competitive Enterprise Institute found that since January 2012 the EPA granted fee waivers for 75 out of 82 Freedom of Information Act requests sent by major environmental groups and only denied seven of them — a 92 percent success rate. At the same time, the agency rejected or ignored 21 out of 26 fee waiver requests from conservative groups — an 81 percent rejection rate.

If a fee waiver is denied, the FOIA request is generally over as many groups don’t have the resources to pay the fees.

“Their practice is to take care of their friends and impose ridiculous obstacles to deny problematic parties’ requests for information,” said CEI senior fellow Chris Horner.

“EPA makes FOIA waiver determinations based on legal requirements that are consistently applied to all fee waiver requests, not on the identity of the reporter,” said EPA spokeswoman Alisha Johnson in an email to The Daily Caller News Foundation when first asked about claims that the agency was routinely denying conservative fee waiver requests.

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