Conservative groups seeking information from the Environmental Protection Agency have been routinely hindered by fees normally waived for media and watchdog groups, while fees for more than 90 percent of requests from green groups were waived, according to requests reviewed by the Conservative Enterprise Institute.
CEI reviewed Freedom of Information Act requests sent between January 2012 and this spring from several environmental groups friendly to the EPA’s mission, and several conservative groups, to see how equally the agency applies its fee waiver policy for media and watchdog groups. Government agencies are supposed to waive fees for groups disseminating information for public benefit.
“This is as clear an example of disparate treatment as the IRS’ hurdles selectively imposed upon groups with names ominously reflecting an interest in, say, a less intrusive or biased federal government,” said CEI fellow Chris Horner.
For 92 percent of requests from green groups, the EPA cooperated by waiving fees for the information. Those requests came from the Natural Resources Defense Council, EarthJustice, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, The Waterkeeper Alliance, Greenpeace, Southern Environmental Law Center and the Center for Biological Diversity.
Of the requests that were denied, the EPA said the group either didn’t respond to requests for justification of a waiver, or didn’t express intent to disseminate the information to the general public, according to documents obtained by The Washington Examiner. CEI, on the other hand, had its requests denied 93 percent of the time. One request was denied because CEI failed to express its intent to disseminate the information to the general public. The rest were denied because the agency said CEI “failed to demonstrate that the release of the information requested significantly increases the public understanding of government operations or activities.”
Similarly, requests from conservative groups Judicial Watch and National Center for Public Policy Research were approved half the time, and all requests from Franklin Center and the Institute for Energy Research were denied. “Their practice is to take care of their friends and impose ridiculous obstacles to deny problematic parties’ requests for information,” said Horner. Freedom of Information Act requests from CEI forced the EPA to release emails under the the “Richard Windsor” alias former EPA administrator Lisa Jackson used to conduct government business.
CEI has also filed FOIA requests for emails, text messages and instant messages from Jackson and EPA nominee Gina McCarthy. Horner said he believes the EPA has denied CEI’s requests because his think tank is the most active group seeking to hold the agency accountable. “This is a clear pattern of favoritism for allied groups and a concerted campaign to make life more difficult for those deemed unfriendly,” he said. “The left hand of big government reaches out to give a boost to its far-left hand at every turn. Argue against more of the same, however, and prepare to be treated as if you have fewer rights.” Update: An earlier version incorrectly called the Natural Resources Defense Council the “National Resources Defense Council.”