Last week, the EPA introduced a change in FOIA policy to accompany their new eDisclosure system, an online portal where regulated entities can submit self-audits, allowing the EPA to more efficiently receive and process violations disclosed under self-reporting options (starting this fall, according to the EPA). This new FOIA policy may increase the amount of FOIA access to environmental information, but it may also cast a chilling effect on companies who self-audit.Read More
Who is Richard Windsor, and what does his name mean for the access of government information about environmental issues?
As it turns out, the Richard Windsor at the center of an ongoing FOIA imbroglio in the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) isn’t the ambitious woodsman on Lewis and Clark’s expedition. Rather, Richard Windsor is the alias assigned to an email account used by former EPA administrator Lisa Jackson to communicate with people from her EPA post. People who used the email address included Cass Sunstein, eventual leader of the White House's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, who called the private account Jackson’s “special email.” The emails going into and coming out of the Richard Windsor email account flew under the government records radar, going untouched by Federal Records Act mandates and FOIA requirements.Read More
The Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act (S. 697) is currently making its way through the U.S. Senate. This law would amend the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), including its policy on confidential business information (CBI), which has traditionally kept tens of thousands of documents confidential.Read More
Confidential business information (CBI) appears frequently in environmental information, often making complete environmental data hard to come by, because CBI is exempt from FOIA disclosure. Incomplete information can negatively impact environmental decisionmaking. The FOIA contains nine major exemptions, including one for “Information that concerns business trade secrets or other confidential commercial or financial information” or “Confidential Business Information” (CBI). If agency records fall an exemption, the public can’t get those records through FOIA.Read More
In government projects that impact the environment, it is vital the the public have access to the relevant environmental information before the project begins, even when that information is not a record in the government's files, but information held by the government's contractor.Read More
The Center for Effective Government (formerly OMB Watch), awarded the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) a D grade in its 2015 Access to Information Scorecard, which analyzes the performance of the 15 U.S. federal agencies that receive the majority of the nation's FOIA requests.Read More