U.S. Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), top Republican on the Environment and Public Works Committee, today made a statement after learning that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) withdrew their participation in a panel moderated by the National Resources Defense Council detailing how third party groups may obtain sensitive information. Vitter, along with five Senators, recently sent a letter to Jared Blumenfeld, EPA Region 9 Administrator, asking that their office not participate in the conference.
The Senators also highlighted in their letter the ongoing investigation of the EPA leaking confidential information of private citizens to environmental activist groups and noted that those groups may be using the information for purposes of citizen suit litigation or to otherwise target private individuals.
"Yesterday we had a major breakthrough with our five transparency requests, including the EPA agreeing to retrain employees on the Freedom of Information Act. I'm hopeful the EPA will continue this week's streak of increasing their accountability and transparency, and take responsibility for better protecting the private data of American citizens by not participating in a conference to teach far-left environmentalist groups how to get sensitive information," Vitter said.
Earlier this year, it became known that EPA had failed to effectively protect personal and confidential business information, including names and personal addresses, relating to concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs). Previously, the Department of Homeland Security had informed EPA that the release of such information could constitute a domestic security risk. In contrast, EPA has refused to disclose information relating to internal agency actions and emails, even when such disclosure is required under the Freedom of Information Act.
A representative from the EPA Region 9 office was scheduled to be a speaker on June 28, 2013 on a panel in Oakland, California entitled Government Information and Citizen Enforcement in the Digital Age: What to Get and How to Get It.
In April, Sens. Fischer, Vitter and EPW Republicans sent a letter to acting EPA Administrator Bob Perciasepe questioning the agency's decision to release the sensitive data.