Rep. Porter Sounds Alarm on Lack of Transparency in Trump Administration’s New Regulation

July 9, 2019
Press Release
Congresswoman demands answers after agencies bypass public comment period to implement new rule making it harder for individuals to access agency records

WASHINGTON – Congresswoman Katie Porter (CA-45) today called out the Trump Administration’s lack of transparency in implementing a new regulation that would make it easier for polluters to overturn environmental protections in secret, without transparency for the public. The new rule, which would allow political appointees, rather than civil servants, at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to review public information requests, was implemented without the usual public comment period required by law.

“Orange County families have made clear that they want government that is accountable to them,” Congresswoman Porter said. “Ensuring that we have free and open information, readily available to everyone, is critical. I am concerned by the Administration’s lack of transparency and what this new regulation would mean for Americans trying to hold the EPA accountable to its mission of building a sustainable future for future generations.”

Under guidelines established by federal law, there must be a public comment period as part of the rulemaking process. The EPA chose to not to adhere to these guidelines and instead rapidly released their new rule without allowing for public comment. This circumvention of the law will make it easier for polluters and other special interests to overturn protections that guard Americans for poisoned water, unclean air, and other hazards that endanger their health and wellness.

The new rule changes how the EPA responds to requests made under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), which allows any individual to request access to federal agency records or information. The Trump Administration’s new regulation expands the number of political appointees that can review—and potentially deny—requests made under FOIA. Senior officials at the EPA include Administrator Andrew Wheeler, a former coal lobbyist who denied the urgency of climate change during a Senate confirmation hearing.

The ability to make FOIA requests is essential to an open democratic process and allows Americans to hold government agencies accountable.

In a letter sent to EPA Administration Wheeler today, Congresswoman Porter wrote, “Government transparency is central to our democracy. At a time when climate change threatens our communities, public access to the government’s work to address this crisis is essential. … It is particularly concerning that the EPA chose to write this rule without public input.”

Read the full text of Porter’s letter HERE.

Congresswoman Porter has prioritized transparency with her constituents and holding the Trump Administration accountable. To date, she’s hosted six public town halls in Orange County. In May, Porter called on Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson to explain his agency’s shortcomings in preventing foreclosure in hearing in which Carson confused a real estate term for a cookie. In March, she exposed Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Kathy Kraninger for her unfamiliarity with the basics of consumer lending.

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