The Environmental Protection Agency is clearing out a huge backlog of Freedom of Information Act requests made during former President Obama’s administration, a demonstration it says of Administrator Scott Pruitt’s promise of transparency.
“We are committed to transparency,” said Pruitt in a statement. “EPA staff have quickly responded to the challenge to clear the backlog of FOIAs that built up from the previous administration, all while continuing to respond to the large volume of incoming requests.”
Skeptics in the media and special interest groups have piled on the FOIAs since Pruitt took office, but his team hasn’t ignored the old requests that went unanswered by Obama’s EPA
“We have requests that are open from as far back as 2008,” said Steven Fine, EPA’s acting chief information officer, in a release. “EPA staff are finding ways to overcome a number of obstacles to complete the majority of the old requests by the end of December.”
As of last month, EPA had 652 open FOIA requests that were submitted in prior years. The agency said it is on track to answer 70 percent of those requests by December 31.
This year, the agency has been served with 11,493 FOIA requests, 995 more than the previous fiscal year. The EPA also received 36 new FOIA lawsuits.
“We are currently defending 41 FOIA lawsuits, which demonstrates that the public feels stronger about access to information than ever before,” said Kevin Minoli, EPA’s acting general counsel. “The effort of employees across EPA to systematically respond to the oldest FOIA requests and eliminate the backlog demonstrates the strength of our commitment to providing the public with access to information,” he added.
The agency, meanwhile, is creating a webpage to show the progress of the backlog reduction effort, which will be found www.epa.gov/foia.
Paul Bedard, the Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org