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FACA does not apply to interest groups' toxics meet for EPA

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  1. Freedom of Information

    NMU         NEW YORK         Freedom of Information    

FACA does not apply to interest groups’ toxics meet for EPA

  • Meetings between a manufacturers’ group and an environmental group to set research guidelines for the Environmental Protection Agency did not have to be open because they did not qualify as meetings ruled by the Federal Advisory Committee Act.

Aug. 27, 2003 — Meetings between the Environmental Defense Fund and the Chemical Manufacturers Association on how to determine the toxicity of chemicals that are produced in great volume were not advisory committee meetings subject to the openness provisions of the Federal Advisory Committee Act, a federal judge ruled Monday in New York.

The court found that there was not enough agency control over the discussions between the environmentalists and manufacturers to make those discussions meetings subject to the act even after the Environmental Protection Agency, which needs the data, joined them for the discussions.

Judge Laura Taylor Swain rejected the complaints of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and others that the meetings were subject to FACA rules requiring balanced membership and open meetings and records.

The groups which brought the lawsuit objected that conclusions on the research did not adequately proscribe the use of animals in research on toxicity and health.

Swain acknowledged that then Vice President Al Gore on Earth Day in 1998 announced a “chemical right-to-know” initiative designed to let the public know about the risks associated with the most pervasive chemicals in the environment, and that later that year EPA set up a program based on the framework agreed upon by the public interest groups which, by then, had met with the agency.

But she said that the statute would not apply here. There was no evidence that meetings between the groups were arranged by the agency or that EPA exercised any control over them. She also acknowledged that both the environmentalists and the manufacturers agreed that they had begun their meetings before the Vice President announced the initiative.

Since the lawsuit began, the Environmental Defense Fund has changed its name to Environmental Defense, and the Chemical Manufacturers Association has been renamed the American Chemistry Council.

(Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine v. Horinko; plaintiffs’ attorney: Robert S. Friedlander, New York City) RD

© 2003 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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