EPA Waives Fees For Friendly Groups, Charges Opponents


With all the ongoing talk of scandals at the Internal Revenue Service, it’s worth pointing out more discriminatory treatment that isn’t getting quite the amount of press that the recent problems at the IRS have been getting:

The Washington Examiner reported Tuesday that the EPA under Ms. Jackson has a history of favoring groups that share the agency’s political agenda. “Conservative groups seeking information from the Environmental Protection Agency have been routinely hindered by fees normally waived for media and watchdog groups, while fees for more than 90 percent of requests from green groups were waived,” according to the report.

Government agencies like the EPA typically waive so-called Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request fees for groups disseminating information for public benefit, but it’s up to the agency to decide whether a fee-waiver is justified. At the EPA, fees were waived for liberal environmental groups like Greenpeace and EarthJustice almost always. Meanwhile, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a free-market think tank, “had its requests denied 93 percent of the time. One request was denied because CEI failed to express its intent to disseminate the information to the general public. The rest were denied because the agency said CEI ‘failed to demonstrate that the release of the information requested significantly increases the public understanding of government operations or activities.’”

This is important because the White House and Democrats have increasingly used regulators at the EPA to advance a green agenda that they can’t get through Congress. The Examiner story suggests that the administration is also using agency regulators to tamp down criticism, the kind of activity that’s at the heart of the IRS scandal. If the fee waiver is denied, that is usually the end of the FOIA request, since many groups don’t have the resources to pay for the documents they are requesting.

Much like the IRS should not be targeting groups of a particular ideological slant for closer inspection, the EPA should not be handing out fee-waivers to its friends and then requiring large fees for organizations that tend to disagree with the agencies actions and direction, including the Competitive Enterprise Institute, which runs this blog.

The IRS scandal has grabbed national headlines around the country. And as Senator David Vitter (R-LA) has stated, the actions taken by the EPA aren’t that different:

Ms. McCarthy worked under Ms. Jackson at the EPA as an assistant administrator, and Republicans have sent her more than 650 questions as part of the confirmation process. Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana, who has led the GOP opposition to her nomination, says that Ms. McCarthy has not been asked specifically about the agency’s uneven handling of FOIA requests but that he plans to do so.

“We know the Obama EPA has completely mismanaged FOIA, but granting fee waivers for their friends in the far-left environmental community, while simultaneously blocking conservative-leaning groups from gaining access to information, is really no different than the IRS disaster,” Mr. Vitter told me in an email Tuesday.

Perhaps America is too tired for another scandal.


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