- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 4, 2021

Justice Amy Coney Barrett, the newest member of the high court, authored her first opinion Thursday in a ruling that blocked an environmentalists group from accessing documents about internal discussions at the Environmental Protection Agency.

The 7-2 ruling was in a case involving the Freedom of Information Act, with Justice Barrett explaining that internal deliberations remain exempt from disclosure.

“To encourage candor, which improves agency decision making, the privilege blunts the chilling effect that accompanies the prospect of disclosure,” she wrote in the 11-page opinion.

It was the first case heard by Justice Barrett, who former President Trump appointed to the high court in October following the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

In her first opinion, she was joined by all of the courts’ GOP-appointees as well as Justice Elena Kagan, one of the court’s three liberal justices.



They ruled against the Sierra Club, which sought documents related to the EPA’s 2011 proposed design of cooling water intake structures for industrial plants, which have been accused of trapping and killing wildlife as surface water is pulled into a plant.

The EPA consulted with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service over the rule and design changes.

FOIA provides several exceptions for government agencies to buck requests for documents. In this case, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service pointed to a privilege shielding documents produced as part of the deliberative process.

Justice Barrett wrote that “records available to the public upon request, unless those records fall within one of nine exemptions.”

The agency released other documents to the Sierra Club that were not exempted under FOIA.

Lower courts also ruled in favor of the government.

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