National Freedom of Information Coalition
Protecting Your Right to Open Government

How to get information out of the EPA

In January 2012, I filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the Environmental Protection Agency asking for copies of correspondence between the EPA and various green groups active in the Marcellus Shale region. The request was filed on behalf of the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, the parent company of Watchdog.org. The FOIA asked the agency to provide us with “any discussion and correspondence with outside groups that concerns potential regulatory action that would impact the fracking process.”

This was not an open-ended request. By design, it was limited since the Marcellus Shale cuts across Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio, Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia. The request was also limited to the green groups most active in the region. The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Greenpeace, the Sierra Club, Physicians for Social Responsibility, the Union of Concerned Scientists, EarthJustice, Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund, and Earthworks are among the groups named in the request. We also asked for communication between the EPA and the Park Foundation, based in Ithaca, New York, which is largely responsible for funding green activism in the region.

After going through the usual fee-waiver request, denial, and appeal process, the EPA finally said it would comply a few months later. Finally, in December 2013, Frederick No, a FOIA officer in the EPA, was kind enough to offer some material. It was very heavy on EPA research into the process of hydraulic fracturing used to extract natural gas, but very light on the actual correspondence that was requested. Still, it was at least a response, and I thank Mr. No for making the effort. Studies continue to show that the fracking process is safe and effective, but this has not dissuaded groups like the NRDC working to keep a moratorium in effect in New York, which could use the jobs that would be created with natural gas production. Meanwhile, the EPA has found a way to keep a lid on the input green groups have had in pursuing anti-energy regulations. Continue>>>
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