Today, U.S. Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), top Republican on the Environment and Public Works Committee, made the following statement after receiving significant commitments from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) regarding improvements to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) process of handling Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.
"It took a lot of coaxing, but it's encouraging to see DOJ and the EPA finally taking FOIA reform seriously. FOIA is a powerful tool for the public to engage the federal government in honest interaction and rulemaking, but that tool is only as useful as the agency handling the process," said Vitter. "We've seen the EPA mess up FOIA too often, and it's time this Administration enacts serious changes to start better serving the American people and stop bending federal law. This is a promising start, and I intend to hold both DOJ and EPA accountable for following through."
DOJ's letter follows the recent confirmation process of Gina McCarthy, EPA Administrator, during which Vitter received major agreements on 5 transparency requests, including changes to the way the Agency trained its employees and handled FOIA requests.
The July 26, 2013 letter spelled out an inter-agency plan to "significantly increase training on the FOIA across [EPA] and to institute measures to provide for enhanced accountability for FOIA processing."
DOJ's letter is in response to a March 7, 2013 letter sent by Vitter, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), which expressed concerns of "the mismanagement of FOIA requests at multiple levels of the EPA," including one particular example in which the Office of General Counsel advised Region 6 officials that it was standard protocol in "such" cases "to alert the requestor that they need to narrow their request because it is overbroad, and secondarily that it will probably cost more than the amount of $ they agreed to pay."