Tags: EPA | FOIA | request | judge | emails | searched | poorly

Federal Judge: EPA Lacks 'Respect' for FOIA Process

By    |   Monday, 02 Mar 2015 09:02 PM

A federal judge said Monday the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) does not "respect" requests made under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), and the agency has been "offensively unapologetic."

Royce C. Lamberth, a District Court judge in the District of Columbia, made the remarks in a ruling of Landmark Legal Foundation v. EPA, a case that focused on the agency's response to a FOIA request filed by the conservative law firm in 2012.

In that FOIA request, Landmark asked for the communications between senior officials at the agency and outside parties to see if the EPA shelved controversial regulations until after the 2012 presidential election.

After some legal back and forth, Landmark filed a lawsuit in October 2012, asking for the information.

The EPA responded with electronic records searches that weren't very thorough. The agency failed to check the personal e-mail accounts of the EPA Administrator at the time, Lisa Jackson, along with her Deputy Administrator Robert Perciasepe, until later. The same occurred with Jackson's EPA-issued Blackberry, which was erased when she resigned in February 2013.

"Either EPA intentionally sought to evade Landmark's lawful FOIA request so the agency could destroy responsive documents, or EPA demonstrated apathy and carelessness toward Landmark's request," Lamberth wrote in his decision. "Either scenario reflects poorly upon EPA and surely serves to diminish the public's trust in the agency."

The EPA "continues to demonstrate a lack of respect for the FOIA process," the judge added.

Jackson used a false name for much of her EPA e-mail communications, a move that was criticized by conservatives. The EPA claimed the address was used for business reasons because Jackson received a large amount of e-mails to her primary work address.

The EPA did submit Jackson's e-mails from both accounts as a result of the FOIA request.

Lamberth wrote he was "satisfied" that the EPA searched its communications per order of the FOIA request, but he was unhappy with how the agency handled the request from the beginning.

"The court is left wondering whether EPA has learned from its mistakes, or if it will merely continue to address FOIA requests in the clumsy manner that has seemingly become its custom," Lamberth wrote. "Given the offensively unapologetic nature of EPA's recent withdrawal notice, the court is not optimistic that the agency has learned anything.

"This court would implore the Executive Branch to take greater responsibility in ensuring that all EPA FOIA requests — regardless of the political affiliation of the requester — are treated with equal respect and conscientiousness."

Conservative radio host Mark Levin
is the president of Landmark Legal Foundation.

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A federal judge said Monday the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) does not respect requests made under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), and the agency has been offensively unapologetic. Royce C. Lamberth, a District Court judge in the District of Columbia,...
EPA, FOIA, request, judge, emails, searched, poorly, handled
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2015-02-02
Monday, 02 Mar 2015 09:02 PM
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