EPA’s toxic mess on transparency

In August 2012, the conservative watchdog group Landmark Legal Foundation made a Freedom of Information Act request for records at the Environmental Protection Agency — specifically seeking records of any efforts to slow down the issue of new regulations until after the 2012 election.

FOIA requests are supposed to be acknowledged and complied with very promptly. In this case, EPA bureaucrats did precisely what the Freedom of Information Act is intended to prevent — they slow-walked Landmark's request past the 2012 elections, so that voters could not use the information to make their decision. They used one form of government opacity (foot-dragging) to protect another (a secretive regulatory process).

The incident raises an important question about government transparency in general. As the Roman poet Juvenal famously asked, "Who will guard the guards themselves?" Can bureaucrats be trusted when they are tasked with providing records of their own behavior? In this case, the answer is evidently no. Continue>>>