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Hall & Assocs. v. Environmental Protection Agency

ELR Citation: 48 ELR 20055
Nos. 16-5315, (D.C. Cir., 04/09/2018)

The D.C. Circuit held that EPA properly responded to a consultant's requests for information concerning the Agency's response to alleged scientific misconduct in tightening nitrogen requirements for the Great Bay Estuary in New Hampshire. EPA received two sets of FOIA requests, and the Agency provided five responsive documents to one of the requests but refused to process the other request that recited allegations of scientific misconduct and requested that EPA provide "all records or factual analyses that show this statement is incorrect." EPA refused to process that request because it did not reasonably identify the records sought and would require EPA to perform analysis and research and formulate opinions. A lower court agreed with EPA. The consultant appealed, but it failed to identify any reversible error in the court's rulings. The lower court properly held that EPA's response was adequate based on a declaration by an EPA employee detailing the efforts undertaken to collect and identify responsive documents. In addition, the requests as initially drafted did not reasonably describe the documents sought and would have required EPA to undertake research, analysis, and formulation of opinions—actions not required by FOIA. Hall & Assocs. v. Environmental Protection Agency, No. 16-5315, 48 ELR 20055 (D.C. Cir. Apr. 9, 2018).