Under the Clean Water Act, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) must approve clean water intakes, used by factories to cool machinery, before any are built. The EPA is required to consult with the Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service to conduct a study of the new intake on marine life. The Sierra Club made a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for records made by the EPA during the agency’s rule making process, including the documentation of consultation with the services. The Services records were withheld citing Exemption 5 of the FOIA shielding from disclosure documents subject to the “deliberative process privilege”. The district court determined twelve of the sixteen restricted documents were not subject to Exemption 5. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed the lower court’s order to disclose some of the records but reversed the decision regarding two of the records. Our discussion will review the record and discuss next steps.

— Damien Schiff, Senior Attorney, Pacific Legal Foundation
— Moderator: Nancie G. Marzulla, Partner, Marzulla Law

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