Pesticide industry advocates double standard for FOIA
CropLife America’s influence on EPA’s regulation of bee-harming pesticides questioned
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Friends of the Earth sent a letter to pesticide industry trade association CropLife America today, urging it to immediately release all meeting minutes and communications between representatives of the EPA Office of the Administrator, Office of Pesticide Programs and Croplife America. On August 26, CropLife America claimed that Friends of the Earth’s Freedom of Information Act request on the input of pesticide companies into the EPA’s pollinator and pesticide policies unduly burdens federal officials. Yet Croplife America itself filed a FOIA request with the EPA just months earlier, and promptly received all requested information.
CropLife America submitted a FOIA to the EPA on June 29 “requesting documents, records and materials from EPA relating to adverse incident reports relating to honey bees/other pollinators and pesticide products from 1995 through the present.” The FOIA request included, but was not limited to, “documents, records and materials contained in and relating to the Agency’s Incident Data System (IDS), Ecological Incident Information System (EIIS), and FIFRA 6(a)(2) records.” The EPA responded to CropLife America’s FOIA on July 16 with all documents requested.
“CropLife America can’t have it both ways. They can’t use FOIA when it benefits them, but claim that other groups should refrain from uncovering information regarding their industry,” said Tiffany Finck-Haynes, food futures campaigner at Friends of the Earth. “If CropLife America is serious about protecting bees, not burdening the EPA, and doesn’t have anything to hide, it should make public its communications with the EPA on the White House’s pollinator protection plan and neonicotinoids.”
In contrast to CropLife America’s FOIA request, on September 1, the EPA denied Friends of the Earth’s request for a fee waiver and for expedited review of its FOIA request submitted on August 26. Friends of the Earth will appeal the EPA’s rejection of its request for a fee waiver and expedited review.
“We urgently need to verify how frequently Administrator McCarthy and the Office of Pesticide Programs met with the manufacturers of these insecticides,” said Marcie Keever, legal director at Friends of the Earth. “Friends of the Earth seeks to use this information in recommendations pertaining to pesticide risk assessment and registration review and for further action regarding the EPA’s policies regarding the assessment of pesticides on pollinator health.“
Friends of the Earth submitted its FOIA due to concerns raised by beekeepers around undue pesticide industry influence on the development of the EPA’s pollinator and pesticide policies. August 28 marked the end of the public comment period on the EPA’s mitigation proposal for pesticides that are acutely toxic to bees and its proposal to rely on state and tribe level bee protection plans. Beekeepers have voiced concerns that the proposal places an unfair burden on beekeepers to solve the bee crisis and abandons federal responsibility to address the impact of pesticides on bee deaths. The Pollinator Stewardship Council recently submitted a letter to the EPA detailing its concerns about the proposed New Rule.
“The Obama administration continues to put up roadblocks when it comes to transparency and the Freedom of Information Act. We believe that we are entitled to a fee waiver and also that our request should be expedited under FOIA regulations, and assert that the agency is ignoring its own written guidance regarding FOIA requests and the release of public information to not-for-profit requestors,” continued Keever. ”This is the type of delay tactic that we have unfortunately continued to experience under the current administration, which has touted its efforts to usher in a new era of transparency in government, while delaying requests from groups like ours.”
“It is unjust that the EPA would quickly grant requests made by the pesticide industry, but delay requests made by a public interest, not-for profit organization,” said Tiffany Finck-Haynes. “The EPA must stand for the interests of bees, the public, beekeepers, our food security and the environment over those of the pesticide industry.“
Communications contact: Kate Colwell, (202) 222-0744, [email protected]