End of the Road in Utah’s Greenhouse-Gas Demand

     (CN) – A Utah official studying the Environmental Protection Agency’s greenhouse-gas warning will not receive further access to records, a federal judge ruled.
     Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes filed a Freedom of Information Act request seeking records on the EPA’s Endangerment Finding, a report that “found that certain greenhouse gases taken in combination endanger the public health and welfare,” according to the ruling.
     After identifying 13,000 responsive records, the agency released 4,445 in full and 8,200 in part, while withholding 342.
     Reyes sued the EPA, claiming that the agency’s search was not adequate, and a federal judge in Washington last year found that some documents might have been improperly withheld and that the agency did not justify the adequacy of its search.
     After considering declarations regarding those issues by EPA official Elizabeth Craig, U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan granted the agency summary judgment Friday.
     “The court finds that the EPA’s explanation, derived from multiple planning meetings by EPA and [Climate Change Division] staff to determine how to respond to plaintiff’s broad and complex request, demonstrates that EPA appropriately approached plaintiff’s request, and that searches for documents that it never had or no longer possessed would be futile,” the 16-page opinion states.
     Further supporting the adequacy of the EPA’s search is that it did not have some of the records, like raw temperature data developed by a third party, the United Kingdom’s Hadley Centre.
     Testimony by Craig, a director in the EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation, also provides details “including the methodology used for determining how to respond to the FOIA request, the manner in which relevant individuals and offices were identified as possessing responsive documents and the reasons for such identification, the filing systems and files searched, and the search terms used,” Sullivan wrote.
     “Plaintiff misunderstands the standard for adequacy of a search under FOIA,” he added. “Taken together, the detailed, non-conclusory affidavits submitted by Ms. Craig satisfy this standard of reasonableness.”
     Here the EPA sufficiently showed that records withheld under attorney-client privilege contained legal advice and that certain documents remained confidential, according to the ruling.

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