Examiner Watchdog Staff
January 28, 2013 | 3:07 pm | Modified: January 28, 2013 at 3:10 pm
Another federal lawsuit has been filed alleging that senior Environmental Protection Agency officials violated the Freedom of Information Act, this time by instructing subordinates to ignore two FOIA requests from a non-profit advocacy group that is often critical of the agency.
Federal law requires agency officials to provide a substantive response to all FOIA requesters within 20 days of receiving their document requests. But the American Tradition Institute said in court documents made public today that EPA ignored ATI's requests filed last year for information concerning the federal agency's relationship with the Sierra Club and the American Lung Association.
"For nearly ten months and despite several entreaties by Plaintiff, Defendant EPA has produced no responsive records, and no substantive response to Plaintiff's requests, but only non-responsive and circular replies to Plaintiff's numerous attempts to obtain cooperation, thereby obstructing the FOIA process," ATI said in its complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
The ATI complaint further noted that an "FOIA specialist with Defendant EPA informed Plaintiff that a superior official with Defendant removed both requests from the two FOIA officers originally assigned to handle them, instructing these officers to perform no work on the requests."
The complaint also said EPA had denied requests for fee waivers even though, according to ATI, the waiver provisions in the law were "designed to ensure public interest groups whose work is largely derived from obtaining records from government are not barred from accessing public records, and despite routinely providing waivers for requests of far less public interest."