Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The EPA Also Discriminates Against Conservative Groups

This administration is definitely setting a dangerous precedent.  When the Republicans retake the White House, they will be able to point to this unfair treatment as an excuse to harass liberal/progressive groups.  And so America dies.  Check this out on the EPA:

The agency has rubber-stamped fee-waiver requests from environmentalist groups seeking information, but it denied similar requests from conservative groups, an extensive examination of EPA correspondence suggests. It's the latest instance in which federal agencies have used their executive authority against perceived political opponents.

Public information about government can be obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request. If a requester plans to use the information to improve public understanding about a policy issue or government operations, rather than putting it to commercial use, Congress has decided that the fees for collecting and transmitting this public information can be waived.

The Competitive Enterprise Institute obtained 1,200 pages of EPA correspondence between January 1, 2012, and April 26, 2013, in circumstances that appear to indicate the process is handled unfairly. A congressional review of these documents showed that environmental groups' fee-waiver requests were approved 92 percent of the time, while CEI saw 93 percent of its fee-waiver requests denied. Only 8 percent of the total number of FOIA fee waivers granted went to conservative think tanks; their requests were denied 73 percent of the time. (Full disclosure: My employer, the Franklin Center, is one of the conservative groups whose requests were examined.)


But Chris Horner, a senior fellow at CEI and one of the central players in the controversy, says the records he has obtained, as well as his personal experience, have suggested the EPA has been "throwing what can be tremendous, even fatal, hurdles in the way to impede people that they don't like. [The fees] can go up into the six figures. . . . This gets pretty nasty."


Luke Popovich, a spokesman for the National Mining Association, says that given his organization's experience, as well as the experiences of other fossil-fuel industry groups, "it would not be surprising if this practice was as common as the critics say it is. It is surpassing strange that green activists seem to have a much easier time in getting documents and getting them way ahead of the curve."

Bonner Cohen, a senior fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research, tells me he's experienced multiple delays when requesting public information from the EPA, and "the delay eventually becomes denial." When he has received the information he requested, it's often heavily redacted, "and we're not talking about one word or sentence — sometimes, whole paragraphs or whole documents."

The Chamber of Commerce has also experienced difficulties obtaining information from the EPA. Bill Kovacs, the senior vice president of environment, technology, and regulatory affairs, says that he sent a request in September asking for access to any of the EPA's job-analysis reports done under Section 321 of the Clean Air Act. The EPA filed a request for extension in December, January, and February. In March, Kovacs says, the EPA told him that the computer system was changed, files had been damaged, and he'd have to begin his request all over again. "We've still never gotten a response," he says.

In another instance, Kovacs explains, the Chamber of Commerce received "several boxes of totally worthless, redacted info. There was nothing in there that you could even read. The environmentalists get the FOIA. We don't."

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