For Immediate Release – May 16, 2013
Contact: Craig Richardson, Executive Director, American Tradition Institute
craig.r@atinstitute.org

ATI Declares That EPA’s “Programatic Audit” Into The Agency’s Practice of Granting Fee Waivers to Environmental Groups While Denying Them to Conservatives Is Not Enough

Washington, D.C. – The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), rocked by documentary evidence — its own records — that it treats environmental groups favorably when it comes to granting waivers for public records fees while denying fee waiver requests for conservative organizations, attempted to cover-up the emerging scandal by calling for an internal “programatic audit.” The American Tradition Institute (ATI), one of the two organizations receiving serial, facially improper fee waiver denials as a hurdle to obtaining public records regarding EPA’s relationship with its group of favored green pressure groups, and which has cited specific, admitted instances of EPA’s bias in pending litigation, said today that a programatic audit is clearly not enough to get to the root of this scandal.

Public record fees can be quite substantial, sometimes rising into six figures for larger document requests. Therefore, making fee waiver decisions based on whether a particular group agrees with the EPA’s agenda or not is particularly egregious.

Chris Horner, lead attorney in the EPA FOIA requests and suits, director of Litigation at ATI’s Environmental Law Center, senior fellow at CEI, and author of “The Liberal War On Transparency” said that the EPA must do much more than just an internal review. “When you have an agency that is as out-of-control as the EPA, its preferential treatment to its ‘friends’ in the environmental left with which it is obviously colluding on a shared agenda, and now obvious vendettas against opposition groups should prove the last straw after exposure of officials using aliases and private email accounts to avoid scrutiny, hatching ‘sue & settle’ schemes and other cozy relationships with pro-environmental groups it aligns itself with philosophically. Clearly having the EPA police itself is not sufficient.” He added, “What is needed is an outside, third-party inquiry that can assure the public that this won’t be just another white-wash investigation.”

In a review of letters granting or denying fee waivers at the “initial determination” stage from January 2012 to this Spring which EPA produced in response to a lawsuit he filed, Horner found that the EPA grants fee waivers to Liberal groups 92% of the time, and denies waiver requests by its most bothersome conservative critics 93% of the time. For example, green groups, such as the National Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility and EarthJustice had their fees waived in 75 out of 82 cases. Meanwhile, EPA effectively or expressly denied Horner’s request for fee waiver in 14 of 15 FOIA requests over this same period.

Added Horner, “To be legitimate any inquiry would have to examine treatment of requests by comparable groups. Lots of requesters with little or no likelihood of ‘broadly disseminating’ information to ‘significantly educate the public about activities or operations of the government’ may be denied, but the issue is how EPA treats those who have most broadly disseminated the interest of most substantial information. And the answer is they’ve stonewalled us, serially, in stark contrast to the groups they are colluding with to impose a shared agenda.”

David Schnare, Director of ATI’s Environmental Law Center, commented, “I spent thirty-three years at the EPA, and I understand the culture and climate that exists inside this agency.” He continued, “Acting Administrator Bob Perciasepe is correct when he noted today that many involved in granting fee waivers are career employees not political appointments, and that’s a serious problem. When you have career bureaucrats who cannot be replaced as elections come and go, and who have substituted their personal agenda for a commitment to public service and impartial implementation of the laws, you end up with exactly what we have at the EPA today – an unaccountable ideologically driven group who will do anything to promote their extreme environmental agenda.”

American Tradition Institute (ATI) is a public policy research and public interest litigation foundation advocating restoration of science and free-market principles on environmental issues, including air and water quality and regulation, responsible land use, natural resource management, energy development, property rights, and principles of stewardship. All supporting documents and images regarding the above-referenced litigation and findings may be accessed at www.atinstitute.org.

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