In a memorandum opinion dated September 29, 2015, Judge Randolph Moss of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that the EPA could withdraw proposed regulations without following the steps the Administrative Procedures Act requires for proposing regulations. The proposed regulations required concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) to provide operational and ownership information to EPA. But EPA discovered that it can obtain the information from the Department of Agriculture and from state farming agencies, which already collect it. For this and other reasons, it withdrew the regulations. Environmental and animal rights activists sued, claiming EPA had failed to follow the Administrative Procedures Act when it withdrew the regulations. The groups had looked forward to having this information centrally located and subject to FOIA requests. As we blogged in June 2013, that central location and FOIAbility led to the erroneous release of private information on tens of thousands of animal feeding operations, even those not subject to the proposed regulations. “When Natural Resources Defense Council, EarthJustice and the Pew Charitable Trust filed Freedom of Information Act requests with EPA seeking information about concentrated animal feeding operations, they were not disappointed. EPA provided them information on 80,000 animal feeding operations—concentrated and otherwise—around the U.S.A. In addition to the information FOIA permits agencies to disclose, EPA had thrown in non-disclosable extras, like the names, email addresses, phone numbers, and personal addresses of individuals, and the names and map coordinates of facilities.” More information, history, and commentary on the new decision—Environmental Integrity Project et al v. McCarthy—can be found here, here, here, and here, among other sites.

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