- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 4, 2001

A public-interest law firm, which accused the Environmental Protection Agency last year of refusing to turn over documents under the Freedom of Information Act, yesterday asked a federal court to ensure that none of the records end up missing.

In a motion filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, the Landmark Legal Foundation said EPA continued its refusal to relinquish the records and asked that a preliminary injunction be granted to "preserve potentially responsive documents in their present location."

The firm asked U.S. District Judge Richard W. Roberts to issue the order immediately, prior to Jan. 20 when President Clinton leaves office.

"Granting the preliminary injunction plaintiff seeks will not harm EPA in the least," the firm said in its nine-page motion. "The failure to grant plaintiff's motion, however, jeopardizes any hope that the EPA will be able to comply with its obligations under the Freedom of Information Act."

In October, Landmark said in a lawsuit that EPA violated the federal Freedom of Information Act in refusing to turn over documents showing its ties to special-interest groups on pending environmental regulations. The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, came after published reports that the EPA was "working feverishly" to issue a host of last-minute regulations before the end of the Clinton administration.

According to the suit, the records include:

• The identification of all new rules or regulations for which the public has not yet been given notice, but for which public notice is planned by the EPA before Jan. 20.

• The names of individuals, groups or organizations outside the EPA with whom the agency has met or talked regarding the pending rules and regulations.

• All documents concerning pending revised or new environmental rules including notes, letters, memorandums, minutes, logs, calendars, schedules, reports, studies, analyses and plans.

• All economic-impact assessments and environmental-impact statements that have been conducted in accordance with any pending new regulations.

Landmark's concerns centered on efforts by the EPA to issue a host of new rules and regulations proposed by environmentalists and other liberal-leaning groups, but opposed by many business and industry organizations.

The EPA effort would establish more stringent standards on a number of fronts including a ban on new road construction by the U.S. Forest Service; a curb on diesel-exhaust emissions; a regulation on mercury emissions from coal-burning power plants; a limit on the use of pesticides, including diazinon and atrazine; and a compensation package for nuclear workers exposed to radiation and chemical hazards.

Landmark asked the court to block the EPA from issuing any new regulations until the agency releases the documents.

EPA officials listed at least 67 regulatory decisions looming before Mr. Clinton's second term expires this month. Several environmental groups and others have pressed the administration to take advantage of the opportunity to make changes during their remaining months in office.

Mr. Clinton already has signed more than 450 executive orders and proclamations, which don't require congressional approval. They include the implementation of the Antiquities Act to create the Grand Canyon-Parashant, Giant Sequoia, Agua Fria and California Coastal national monuments.

The orders were signed despite the objection of Western residents and politicians, who described them as an unwarranted intrusion into land-use policy.


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