The EPA’s inspector general concluded that the agency did not show bias in denying fee waivers on open-records requests from conservative-leaning groups while approving those from liberal-leaning groups, according to an audit released Wednesday.
Investigators said the Environmental Protection Agency did regularly break its own rules by delaying responses to fee waiver requests and appeals past its own self-imposed deadline, but said the agency generally made the right call once it issued a final decision.
The inspector general said EPA made the right call in 95 percent of its cases, while in the other cases, the IG said some should have been denied when the agency approved them, and others should have been approved while the agency denied them.
Fee waivers are requests that the government not charge money for an open-records request submitted under the Freedom of Information Act. Waivers are supposed to be approved if there is a compelling public interest in making the information public.
The Energy & Environment Legal Institute, a conservative-leaning group that has regularly battled the EPA over open-records requests and fee waivers, said the numbers belie the IG’s conclusion.
EELI said its calculations show the EPA granted 58 percent of environmental groups’ fee waivers, but denied two-thirds of all conservative groups’ requests. EELI and the Competitive Enterprise Institute only had 25 percent of their requests granted.