For Immediate Release:
September 6, 2016
Washington, Sept. 6 – On Thursday, the Energy & Environment Legal Institute learned that the Washington-based Free Market Environmental Law Clinic filed an appeal to a “no records” response from the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences. Having led several high-profile open records investigations in recent years, E&E Legal is aware of the abuse of such claims when agencies claim that records they in fact possess aren’t really theirs, in order to avoid releasing them to the public. In its appeal filed last week, FME Law proved this is yet another such instance.
FME Law was seeking the public records of NIEHS veterinarian Gloria D. Jahnke, the agency’s representative to the International Agency on Cancer Research (IARC) committee preparing Monograph 112 – a publication examining the cancer potential for glyphosate, one of the world’s most widely used and effective agricultural herbicides.
On March 20, 2015, IARC reclassified glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic to humans”, as it does with most things it casts its gaze to. Six months later, the U.S. EPA’s Cancer Assessment Review Committee (CARC) concluded its review of the IARC monograph, reexamined nearly 100 other studies, including several IARC did not consider, and finally concluded that “In accordance with the 2005 Guidelines for Carcinogen Risk Assessment, based on the weight-of evidence, glyphosate is classified as ‘Not Likely to be Carcinogenic to Humans’”.
Following its normal procedures, EPA posted its CARC “no carcinogenicity” finding for glyphosate on its website on May 2, 2016, a Friday. On the Monday next, EPA pulled the report, claiming that a document that was marked and signed as “Final” was only a “preliminary assessment.” This remarkable sequence made the issue of even greater public interest.
“Considering the economic and agricultural importance of glyphosate to the world, one must ask, what is our government doing?” states Dr. David W. Schnare, environmental scientist, attorney and Director of FME Law. “Obviously there is some kind of power-struggle going on within this small band of toxicologists, but equally obvious is that they have mixed a scientific process with policy making – activities EPA has long-distinguished.”
The Freedom of Information Act is intended to allow the public to find out what its government is doing. FME Law used FOIA to ask NIEHS what its employee, Ms. Jahnke, was doing, seeking her emails associated with her participation in the IARC-Glyphosate activities. NIEHS made the absurd claim that they had no records, not claiming that they actually had no records, but that they didn’t have to give them up because Jahnke was not a “representative” of the Agency.
She was. IARC specifically invited NIEHS officials “to attend the
NIEHS also argued that IARC’s claim of confidentiality in its emails was sufficient to shield them from FOIA. Yet, IARC admits it only uses public information in its work. Nor does IARC have a confidentiality agreement with NIEHS. And, IARC does not prohibit release of its documents. In fact, it is without any authority to do so.
This is a routine we have seen repeated in recent years, from public universities to federal employees working on the UN IPCC global warming campaign. “NIEHS has largely funded IARC over the last decade. There has been a significant sharing of personnel resources between the two, and with EPA as well,” explained Dr. Schnare. “Dr. Jahnke’s IARC work was plainly NIEHS work-related. Now it’s time to find out whether EPA is ceding both its scientific and policy responsibilities to this European toxicology non-profit. NIEHS has some of the answers to this question and must give them up,” he concluded.
The Energy & Environment Legal Institute (E&E Legal) is a 501(c)(3) organization engaged in strategic litigation, policy research, and public education on important energy and environmental issues. Primarily through its petition litigation and transparency practice areas, E&E Legal seeks to correct onerous federal and state policies that hinder the economy, increase the cost of energy, eliminate jobs, and do little or nothing to improve the environment.