Judge smacks EPA for bias, ‘carelessness’ in handling FOIA requests

Judge smacks EPA for bias, ‘carelessness’ in handling FOIA requests

In a scorching 25-page opinion, the judge accused the agency of insulting him by first claiming it had conducted a full search for records, then years later retracted that claim in a footnote to another document without giving any explanation for how it erred.

“The recurrent instances of disregard that EPA employees display for FOIA obligations should not be tolerated by the agency,” the judge said. “This court would implore the executive branch to take greater responsibility in ensuring that all EPA FOIA requests — regardless of the political affiliation of the requester — are treated with equal respect and conscientiousness.” …

Judge Lamberth pointedly noted that the EPA delayed some of its follow-through on the request by Landmark until after the 2012 elections and said explanations by several EPA officials for why they failed to live up to the law defied reason.

Agency spokeswoman Liz Purchia said the EPA was happy that Judge Lamberth didn’t punish it further. She also vowed that her agency would try to do better on open-records requests. …

Judge Lamberth singled out the actions of two employees.

One, Nena Shaw, he said, either showed “utter indifference” to the law or lied to the court about the efforts she made to provide records to Landmark.

The other, Eric W. Wachter, a key EPA official identified as overseeing the open-records search, told the court several years ago that he had conducted a thorough search for records Landmark requested. On Friday, however, the Justice Department quietly retracted those assertions.

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