EPA inspector general responds to FOIA review by Grassley and Issa

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The inspector general at the Environmental Protection Agency has issued a special report responding to a request by Sen. Charles Grassley and Rep. Darrell Issa to review the influence of political appointees in granting Freedom of Information Act requests.

Last August, the Republican lawmakers sent letters to 29 inspectors general at government agencies, stemming from a media report that the Department of Homeland Security was filtering and delaying politically-sensitive FOIA requests. Many inspectors general responded publicly that they did not find cases of political interference in the FOIA request process.

The inspector general at the EPA reviewed a sample of 50 FOIA requests and found that seven involved politically—appointed employees. The finding suggested that appointees, who often are in charge of the EPA’s major offices, are usually only involved in FOIA requests to sign off on a denial of information.

The staff handling FOIA requests at the EPA are not political appointees. Special cases, like requests involving the BP oil spill and the 2009 endangerment ruling on greenhouse gases, do not involve political filtering either, the IG said. These requests are monitored agency—wide to ensure consistency in the response.

“We found no evidence of systematic screening of FOIA requests by political appointees,” the report stated.

FAST FACT: The EPA has 67 positions filled by political appointees, who head major offices and advocate administration policies and programs.

Following are other new watchdog reports released by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), various federal Offices of Inspector General (OIG), and other government entities.

HOMELAND SECURITY

  • The inspector general at the Department of Homeland Security announced his retirement yesterday. Richard Skinner was confirmed under President George W. Bush in 2005 and served as the first Senate—confirmed inspector general when the Department was formed. He will depart on March 1. (OIG Department of Homeland Security)

MISC.

  • The Federal Bureau of Investigation launched a new website in Spanish, aimed at tapping into the Hispanic population and immigrant communities who could provide leads and tips for crimes. The website also explains topic like human trafficking and laws in Spanish. (FBI)