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RCFP urges revisions to EPA’s proposed FOIA rule

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  1. Freedom of Information

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press is urging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to revise its recently proposed Freedom of Information Act regulations to make it easier for journalists and other requesters to access agency records.

In public comments submitted to the EPA, Reporters Committee attorneys expressed concerns about a number of provisions included in a proposed rule the agency introduced in November 2022. The comments, submitted to the EPA on Dec. 19, 2022, address the agency’s decision to eliminate email as a viable method to submit administrative appeals, as well as other provisions that contradict the federal public records law.

“Email is a well-established, ubiquitous, and effective method of submission that creates a permanent, time-stamped, and accessible record for both the agency and the requester,” Reporters Committee attorneys argue.

In addition to urging the EPA to accept FOIA requests and appeals via email, the Reporters Committee’s public comments highlight several ways in which the agency’s proposed rule fails to follow FOIA requirements and guidance from U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland. For example, the proposed rule does not include a requirement for FOIA officers to address the “foreseeable harm” standard when denying a records request. That standard, which Congress added in the FOIA Improvement Act of 2016, heightens the government’s burden for denying the public access to records.

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