Surge in information requests, hiring freeze puts pressure on overburdened FOIA offices

The Environment Protection Agency collected about 200 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests during the first week of the Trump administration, and more than 20 percent of them are about the new president, climate change and social media.

Larry Gottesman, director of the national FOIA program at EPA, said his agency receives about 12,000 requests per year. According to FOIAOnline, since the beginning of October, the start of fiscal 2017, the EPA has received roughly 3,200 requests.

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Federal agencies ordered to restrict their communications

Trump administration officials instructed employees at multiple agencies in recent days to cease communicating with the public through news releases, official social media accounts and correspondence, raising concerns that federal employees will be able to convey only information that supports the new president’s agenda.

The new limits on public communications appear to be targeting agencies that are charged with overseeing environmental and scientific policy, prompting criticism from officials within the agencies and from outside groups focused on climate change.

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AFBF: EPA violates privacy of farmers and ranchers

The Environmental Protection Agency has violated the personal privacy of tens of thousands of farmers and ranchers, according to a unanimous ruling issued by the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.

The ruling in American Farm Bureau Federation and National Pork Producers Council vs. EPA concerned the federal agency’s 2013 release to three environmental groups of a vast compilation of spreadsheets containing personal information about farmers and ranchers who raise livestock and poultry in 29 states.

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EPA Launches eDisclosure System

On December 9, 2015, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) officially launched its new electronic portal for the submission of certain voluntary disclosures of federal environmental violations under its self-audit policies. The details of the eDisclosure system are largely consistent with what EPA presented during its June 2015 announcement and related webinars, as discussed in the June 2015 Thompson Hine Environmental Update, with a few important distinctions.

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EPA may have tried to evade FOIA request, judge says

From WashingtonPost.com:  A federal judge said Wednesday that the Environmental Protection Agency may have tried to evade a Freedom of Information Act request and added that “numerous inconsistencies” in the agency’s court filings “undermine confidence in their truthfulness.”

As a result, Judge Royce C. Lamberth granted the conservative Landmark Legal Foundation, which filed the request for e-mails of current and former top EPA officials, the right to question them in person and in writing.

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Newly released emails show EPA director’s extensive use of fictional alter ego

From The Washington Times:  Richard Windsor never existed at the EPA, but the agency awarded the fictional staffer’s email account certificates proving he had mastered all of the agency’s technology training — including declaring him a “scholar of ethical behavior,” according to documents disclosed late last week.

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