Jan. 12, 2018

Environmental Protection Agency Unlawfully Withheld Emails in Violation of FOIA, Lawsuit Alleges

Public Citizen Files Freedom of Information Act Lawsuit Against EPA

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) unlawfully withheld emails sought in a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, an environmental researcher and Harvard University librarian said in a lawsuit filed today. Public Citizen Litigation Group is representing the researcher, George Clark, Ph.D., in his action against the EPA.

Clark requested five months of emails between EPA Chief of Staff Ryan Jackson and a list of 20 individuals, mostly other government workers and pending or potential nominees. Two months later, the EPA responded that Clark’s FOIA request “did not reasonably define a set of records to search.”

When Clark confirmed that he would not alter his request because he had already provided the EPA with sufficiently specific information to identify the records sought, the EPA denied the request.

Today, Public Citizen filed a lawsuit on behalf of Clark to challenge the EPA’s refusal to produce responsive records. “The EPA’s rejection of Dr. Clark’s FOIA request as not reasonably specific violates both the letter and the spirit of the law,” said Patrick Llewellyn, the Public Citizen attorney representing Clark. “His lawsuit aims to correct the EPA’s violation of FOIA and to push back against the EPA’s unlawful attempt to stymie access to public records.”

Clark added, “Open access to public records through the Freedom of Information Act remains a key part of academic inquiry into the workings of the government, as well as for citizens at large to make sure that the government is doing what it is supposed to do.”

Learn more about the case.