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Public Employees for Envtl. Responsibility v. EPA

Citation: 28 ELR 20414
(08/07/1997)

The court holds that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) Office of Inspector General must disclose portions of its internal investigations manual and other law enforcement documents pursuant to a public interest group's Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. The court first holds that EPA's Vaughn index and declarations supporting the application of FOIA's § 7(E) exemption fail to provide the court with an adequate factual basis to determine whether EPA properly withheld the requested materials. EPA's declarations merely make conclusory statements that disclosure of the withheld information would reveal guidelines for law enforcement investigations that could reasonably be expected to risk circumvention of the law and/or would disclose techniques and procedures not generally known to the public. After reviewing the materials in camera, the court holds that various parts of the documents were improperly withheld, because they are not likely to lead to a risk of circumvention of the law. The court also holds, however, that EPA properly invoked FOIA's § 7(E) exemption on some portions that risk circumvention of the law or endanger the life or safety of an individual. The court further holds that EPA properly withheld rescinded chapters of the investigation manual, because the public interest group only sought rules, policies, and procedures that EPA followed, employed, or was bound by at the time of the request.

Counsel for Plaintiff
Jacqueline P. Taylor
Pederson & Taylor
143 Union Blvd., Lakewood CO 80228
(303) 980-9091

Counsel for Defendant
Robert D. Clark, Ass't U.S. Attorney
U.S. Attorney's Office
1100 Federal Office Bldg.
1961 Stout St., Denver CO 80294
(303) 844-3885