EPA eDisclosure Auditing Plan - A Boon to Environmental Information Access?

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.

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What does “Richard Windsor” mean for environmental information access?

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.

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Confidential Business Information Leaves Gaps in Crucial Fracking Regulation Data

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.

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