New EPA Interview Transcript Excerpts Raise Serious Concerns About FOIA Abuses
Washington, D.C. (July 13, 2018)—Today, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, the Ranking Member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, sent a letter asking Chairman Trey Gowdy to issue a subpoena to compel the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to produce documents it is withholding relating to ousted EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s efforts to delay producing records under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) relating to his tenure.
“Information recently obtained by the Committee confirms that EPA is using a process in which political appointees review FOIA requests and hand select requests to be processed by a different team if they are complex or ‘politically charged’,” Cummings wrote. “Responses to FOIAs are at times deliberately delayed, and political appointees review responses to FOIA requests before they are released. In at least one instance, EPA gave favorable treatment to an industry lobbyist.”
Cummings first wrote to Pruitt on June 11, 2018, requesting documents by June 25, 2018, but EPA’s only response to date has been an email providing a link to documents already cited in Cummings’ previous letter.
On June 29, 2018, Republican and Democratic Committee staff interviewed Pruitt’s Chief of Staff, Ryan Jackson, who continues to serve in that capacity.
Jackson confirmed that EPA is using a new process for responding to FOIA requests for information from the Office of the Administrator or other “complex” and “politically charged” FOIA requests.
Cummings noted that during a Committee hearing in 2011, Gowdy criticized an official from the Department of Homeland Security for having political appointees review FOIA responses.
“You asked the witness, ‘Would you concede that slow walking or taking your time in complying with an otherwise legitimate FOIA request could be interference?’ I ask that you show that same concern for the way this Administration is implementing FOIA,” Cummings wrote.
Cummings asked Gowdy to issue a subpoena for all documents and communications relating to the EPA’s FOIA response process. If Gowdy declines, Cummings asked for the subpoena motion to be placed on the agenda at the Committee’s next business meeting.
Click here to read today’s letter.