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American Farm Bureau Federation v. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

ELR Citation: 46 ELR 20149
Nos. 15-1234, (8th Cir., 09/09/2016)

The Eighth Circuit reversed a lower court decision that livestock farm groups lacked standing to bar EPA from releasing their members' personal information in response to environmental groups' FOIA requests about concentrated animal feeding operations. The farm groups argued that the requested information, which included the physical address and other operational details about their farms, is protected by FOIA Exemption 6, which safeguards “personal, medical, or similar" files from being released to prevent an "unwarranted invasion of personal privacy." The lower court ruled that the groups lack standing because the personal information is already publicly available. But that conclusion assesses the merits of the asserted privacy interest under FOIA rather than analyzing whether the groups had a legally cognizable interest in preventing EPA's release of their members' personal information. Here, it is undisputed that EPA has released or will release the personal information without the members' consent as part of its response to the FOIA requests. That is sufficient to establish a concrete and particularized injury-in-fact. The lower court therefore erred in dismissing this case for lack of standing. In addition, the court held that EPA abused its discretion in deciding that the information at issue was not protected under Exemption 6. On remand, the lower court must consider the groups' request for injunctive relief.