Scott Pruitt

Emma Best filed this request with the Environmental Protection Agency of the United States of America.
Tracking #

EPA-HQ-2017-002142

Due Jan. 20, 2017
Est. Completion None
Status
Awaiting Response

Communications

From: Michael Best

To Whom It May Concern:

This is a request under the Freedom of Information Act. I hereby request the following records:

Records from 2015 and 2016 relating to or mentioning Scott Pruitt, including communications received from or sent to Mr. Pruitt, as well as emails mentioning him.

I am a member of the news media and request classification as such. I have previously written about the government and its activities for AND Magazine, MuckRock and Glomar Disclosure and have an open arrangement with each. My articles have been widely read, with some reaching over 100,000 readers. As such, as I have a reasonable expectation of publication and my editorial and writing skills are well established. In addition, I discuss and comment on the files online and make them available through the non-profit Internet Archive, disseminating them to a large audience. While my research is not limited to this, a great deal of it, including this, focuses on the activities and attitudes of the government itself. As such, it is not necessary for me to demonstrate the relevance of this particular subject in advance. Additionally, case law states that “proof of the ability to disseminate the released information to a broad cross-section of the public is not required.” Judicial Watch, Inc. v. Dep’t of Justice, 365 F.3d 1108, 1126 (D.C. Cir. 2004); see Carney v. U.S. Dep’t of Justice, 19 F.3d 807, 814-15 (2d Cir. 1994). Further, courts have held that "qualified because it also had “firm” plans to “publish a number of . . . ‘document sets’” concerning United States foreign and national security policy." Under this criteria, as well, I qualify as a member of the news media. Additionally, courts have held that the news media status "focuses on the nature of the requester, not its request. The provision requires that the request be “made by” a representative of the news media. Id. § 552(a)(4)(A)(ii)(II). A newspaper reporter, for example, is a representative of the news media regardless of how much interest there is in the story for which he or she is requesting information." As such, the details of the request itself are moot for the purposes of determining the appropriate fee category.

The requested documents will be made available to the general public, and this request is not being made for commercial purposes.

In the event that there are fees, I would be grateful if you would inform me of the total charges in advance of fulfilling my request. I would prefer the request filled electronically, by e-mail attachment if available or CD-ROM if not.

Thank you in advance for your anticipated cooperation in this matter. I look forward to receiving your response to this request within 20 business days, as the statute requires.

Sincerely,

Michael Best

From: foia_hq@epa.gov

This message is to confirm your request submission to the FOIAonline application: View Request. Request information is as follows: (https://foiaonline.regulations.gov:443/foia/action/public/view/request?objectId=090004d2810a4a13)
* Tracking Number: EPA-HQ-2017-002142
* Requester Name: Michael Best
* Date Submitted: 12/16/2016
* Request Status: Submitted
* Description: Requesting records from 2015 and 2016 relating to or mentioning Scott Pruitt, including communications received from or sent to Mr. Pruitt, as well as emails mentioning him.

From: Clarke, Victoria

Good morning Mr. Best:

EPA received and acknowledged your respective FOIA requests on December 16 and December 19, 2017 submitted electronically via FOIAonline. We are reaching out to you to discuss clarifying/narrowing request EPA-HQ-2017-002142, and seek your agreement to administratively close request EPA-HQ-2017-002168 as duplicative, as both requests seek records from "2015 and 2016 relating to or mentioning Scott Pruitt, including communications received from or sent to Mr. Pruitt, as well as emails mentioning him."

Request EPA-HQ-2017-002142 is not reasonably described, as required by the FOIA statute. In order to process your request, we need you to identify the specific EPA employees whose records you need searched. To avoid any interruption in the processing of your request, we are providing to you a list of 77 EPA employees that represent EPA senior leadership. Please review the attached list of EPA employees and let us know by COB Wednesday December, 28 if you accept or reject narrowing the scope of EPA-HQ-2017-002142 to the 77 EPA employees listed in the attachment. Also, please confirm you are withdrawing EPA-HQ-2017-002168 because it is duplicative.

If you have any questions or concerns or would like to discuss this matter, please feel free to email or call me at my contact information below or reach out to my colleague, Nicole Rementer, at Rementer.Nicole@epa.gov<mailto:Rementer.Nicole@epa.gov> or 202-564-3692.

Thank you,
Victoria

Victoria Clarke
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Office of General Counsel
Washington, D.C. |7312B WJCN
202-564-1149

From: Michael Best

Thank you for reaching out. The request is reasonably described by statute, as it is easily searchable with automated processes and provides clear keyword searches. Further, this automation does not require significant changes to your system as required for the definition of not reasonably described or overly broad and burdensome.

As far as duplicate requests, I have not filed any duplicate requests and I do not withdraw them. I request that you review the requests that you believe are duplicates and you will see that they are not identical.

Thank you.

From: Michael Best

I have reasonably described the records and an email keyword search of all employee emails does not require the significant reconfiguration of Agency systems as required for the request to be considered unduly broad and burdensome. The procedures to automate the request are simple, and as such do not qualify as a "significant reconfiguration." Specifically National Security Counselors v. CIA found that "FOIA permits agencies to consider the configuration of their record systems in deciding whether a FOIA request 'reasonably describes' the records sought" only when it would "would be unreasonable to require agencies to throw practical considerations to the wind in deciding whether they can process FOIA requests." The practical considerations in this case are not significantly limiting. Therefore, the request is reasonably described by both case law and the FOIA statute.

From: Clarke, Victoria

Mr. Best,

Thank you for your email. Based upon your response, we have a couple of follow up issues we would like to address with you.

First, could you please clarify for us how EPA-HQ-2017-002142 is not a duplicate of EPA-HQ-2017-002168? We want to ensure that your requests are properly submitted so that they can be timely processed and answered.

In EPA-HQ-2017-002142, the attachment to your FOIA Request, titled “Best (Scott Pruitt) Rqst.pdf” is an email from you, dated December 16, 2016 at 4:16 PM requesting “Records from 2015 and 2016 relating to or mentioning Scott Pruitt, including communications received from or sent to Mr. Pruitt, as well as emails mentioning him.”

Similarly, in EPA-HQ-2017-002168, the attachment to your FOIA Request, titled “FOIA – REQUEST – of 12-19-2016 fr Michael Best.pdf,” is an email from you, dated December 16, 2016 at 4:16 PM requesting “Records from 2015 and 2016 relating to or mentioning Scott Pruitt, including communications received from or sent to Mr. Pruitt, as well as emails mentioning him.”

We do not understand the difference between the two requests, and unless you can provide us with some distinction between the two requests, we will administratively close EPA-HQ-2017-002168 as duplicative.

Second, upon review of the scope of your request and considering your rejection of the proffered list of 77 custodians, we determined that a search of EPA’s Correspondence Management System is reasonably calculated to uncover all documents relevant to your request for “Records from 2015 and 2016 relating to or mentioning Scott Pruitt, including communications received from or sent to Mr. Pruitt, as well as emails mentioning him.” See Privacy Act System of Records: Correspondence Management System, EPA-22, 69 Fed. Reg. 198 (October 14, 2004), https://www.epa.gov/privacy/privacy-act-system-records-correspondence-management-system-epa-22 (describing the parameters of the Correspondence Management System). We will search for records within the date range of 1/1/2015 to the date of our search using the following search term: “Pruitt”.

If you seek records from sources beyond the Correspondence Management System, you will need to provide us with a list of specific custodians. Section 552 (a)(3)(C) mandates that in response to a request for records, the Agency “shall make reasonable efforts to search for the records in electronic form or format, except when such efforts would significantly interfere with the operation of the agency’s automated information system.” See 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(3)(C) (emphasis added). To conduct a search of all Agency records, including email accounts, would significantly interfere with that system. In order to best serve the needs of our requester-customers, we try to work with you to narrow the scope of your requests, so you can access the information you seek in as timely, efficient, and thorough means as the Agency can without disruption to our automated systems. To that end, please let us know if a search within the Correspondence Management System for records responsive to your request is acceptable.

Please note that this FOIA request is tolled until we receive confirmation from you that the search of the Correspondence Management System is acceptable, and/or you provide us with a list of custodians for an email account search. Please respond within nine calendar days from the date of this email, or COB January 6, 2017. If we do not receive a response from you within this time period, we will search the Correspondence Management System and review any relevant documents uncovered by the search to respond to your request.

Please contact me or my colleague, Nicole Rementer at rementer.nicole@epa.gov<mailto:rementer.nicole@epa.gov>, with your clarification, or I can be reached at 202.564.1149 if you would like to set up a time to further discuss your request.

Thank you,
Victoria

Victoria Clarke
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Office of General Counsel
Washington, D.C. |7312B WJCN
202-564-1149

From: Michael Best

I only sent the FOIA request once, as shown by the time stamps you provided, but you accidentally processed it twice. As I didn't submit it twice, I assumed you referred to another FOIA I filed. I did not realize you copied the request and accidentally reprocessed it after several dozen other FOIAs.

Does the Correspondence Management System include email If not, it is not sufficient.

While I do no concede that the search would interfere, I will in fact contest this later, I request that you specify how many email accounts I am "allowed" to specify before you will refuse to perform the search? Please also clarify why an email search of these accounts is impossible, despite you having done so before for things like your Gold King Mine release, which produced many thousands of emails.

From: Clarke, Victoria

Mr. Best,

Thank you for your response concerning FOIA requests EPA-HQ-2017-002142 and EPA-HQ-2017-002168. We will administratively close EPA-HQ-2017-002168 as duplicative.
EPA’s Correspondence Management System contains “[c]orrespondence generated by anyone in the public, private, or government sectors and addressed to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency or any of its employees in their official capacity. Correspondence generated by any employee of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in his or her official capacity. Complete records may include metadata about the correspondence that facilitates tracking and record retrieval, a scanned image or electronic copy of the incoming communication, draft(s) of the response document, supporting documents or other attachments, and a scanned image or electronic copy of the outgoing signed response. Pre-decisional draft responses will not be included as part of the final record. Maintenance of physical records is the responsibility of each office in accordance with the Agency's records management guidelines.” See Privacy Act System of Records: Correspondence Management System, EPA-22, 69 Fed. Reg. 198 (October 14, 2004), https://www.epa.gov/privacy/privacy-act-system-records-correspondence-management-system-epa-22 (describing the records contained within the Correspondence Management System). The Correspondence Management System generally does not include emails in the records system.

Your request for “[r]ecords from 2015 and 2016 relating to or mentioning Scott Pruitt, including communications received from or sent to Mr. Pruitt, as well as emails mentioning him,” without identifying EPA employees’ email accounts you would like searched imposes an “unreasonably burdensome” records search. EPA’s regulations require that a request “should reasonably describe the records you are seeking in a way that will permit EPA employees to identify and locate them” and “[w]henever possible, your request should include specific information about each record sought, such as the date, title or name, author, recipient, and subject matter.” 40 C.F.R. §2.102(c). Agencies, such as the EPA, are not required to conduct wide-ranging and unreasonably burdensome searches for records. See AFGE v. U.S. Dep't of Commerce, 907 F.2d 203, 209 (D.C. Cir. 1990) (holding "while [plaintiff's requests] might identify the documents requested with sufficient precision to enable the agency to identify them . . . it is clear that these requests are so broad as to impose an unreasonable burden upon the agency," because agency would have "to locate, review, redact, and arrange for [the] inspection [of] a vast quantity of material"). To help you narrow the scope of your request, we proffered the list of custodians provided by other FOIA requesters with similarly broad records requests seeking related information. You twice rejected opportunities to come to an agreement on the scope of EPA email custodians to search.

The FOIA obligates EPA to reasonably interpret your request, and conduct a reasonably calculated search to locate relevant documents. Based upon our reasonable interpretation of your request, we have determined our search plan to incorporate the Correspondence Management System and the emails of the attached list of 140 EPA employees. Your request is no longer tolled and will be processed as described.

If you decide you would like a search of other EPA records systems or other EPA employees’ email accounts, you will have to file a new FOIA request, as those extraneous search parameters are outside the scope of EPA’s interpretation of your request.

You may seek dispute resolution services from EPA’s FOIA Public Liaison at hq.foia@epa.gov<mailto:hq.foia@epa.gov> or (202) 566-1667, or from the Office of Government Information Services (OGIS). You may contact OGIS in any of the following ways: by mail, Office of Government Information Services, National Archives and Records Administration, Room 2510, 8610 Adelphi Road, College Park, MD 20740-6001; email, ogis@nara.gov<mailto:ogis@nara.gov>; telephone, (301) 837-1996 or (877) 684-6448; or fax, (301) 837-0348.

If you have other questions about your request, please contact me by email or 202-564-1149, or my colleague, Nicole Rementer at rementer.nicole@epa.gov<mailto:rementer.nicole@epa.gov> or 202-564-3692.

Thank you,

Victoria

Victoria Clarke
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Office of General Counsel
Washington, D.C. |7312B WJCN
202-564-1149

From: Auther.Larry@epa.gov

Mr. Best.
FOIA EPA-HQ-2017-002168 has been processed with the following final disposition: Duplicate request.
Please see the attached letter.
Larry Auther
Office of Policy, USEPA

From: Auther.Larry@epa.gov

01/17/2017 09:21 AM FOIA Request: EPA-HQ-2017-002142

From: Teplitzky.Andy@epa.gov

02/09/2017 10:55 AM
Dear Mr. Best:
This letter is in reference to your Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request received by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA or Agency) on December 16, 2016, in which you requested “copies of correspondence between staff of the Environmental Protection Agency (Region 6) and Governor Rick Perry or his staff from 2000-2015.  This request is for copies of written and electronic correspondence between Governor Perry and the Environmental Protection Agency (Region 6), and communications between the individuals with an @gov.texas.gov email extension and any employee of the Environmental Protection Agency (Region 6) without regard to content or subject during the same period of time.”
Given the scope of your request, EPA anticipates that unusual circumstances will delay the delivery of our response due to the fact that the search for and collection of the requested records will require coordination with multiple offices that are separate from the office processing the request.
EPA has initiated the coordination of and search for responsive records in our files.  Because of the broad scope of the request and the need to coordinate with multiple offices, it is difficult to predict with certainty how many records may be involved.  At this time, EPA estimates it will be able to complete an initial records search and retrieval for your request by 31 March 2017.  Of course, we will be working diligently on the request and will provide information to you on a rolling basis, if necessary.
If you would like to modify or narrow your request so that it may be processed sooner, please contact Andy Teplitzky at 202-566-2947 or teplitzky.andy@epa.gov.  In addition, to assist with this matter, you may contact the EPA FOIA Public Liaison at 202-566-1659, and you may seek dispute resolution services from the Office of Government Information Services (OGIS). You may contact OGIS in any of the following ways: by mail, Office of Government Information Services, National Archives and Records Administration, Room 2510, 8610 Adelphi Road, College Park, MD 20740-6001; email, ogis@nara.gov; telephone, (301) 837-1996 or (877) 684-6448; or fax, (301) 837-0348. (mailto:teplitzky.andy@epa.gov)
Sincerely,
Andrew Teplitzky

U.S. EPA, Office of Policy

From: Michael Best

Thank you for the update, I really appreciate it. If it's easier for your agency, I'm fine with a rolling release.

From: Teplitzky, Andy

Mr. Best: Thanks for checking in on the progress of our response to your referenced FOIA. As I indicated in my last correspondence with you via FOIA OnLine, we continue to anticipate responding to your request by March 31, 2017, with any relevant records that are identified and reviewed for release. We apologize for not being able to respond sooner and appreciate your patience as we continue to respond to your FOIA and the many others we have received since the change in Administration. Feel free to check-in periodically if you’d like.
Andy Teplitzky

Andrew Teplitzky
Sr. Policy Advisor
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Office of Policy
1200 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20460
teplitzky.andy@epa.gov<mailto:teplitzky.andy@epa.gov>
202-566-2947

From: Auther.Larry@epa.gov

Mr. Best,
EPA-HQ-2017-002142 has been approved for an interim release. Please see the attached letter concerning your request. You may access the released documents using the "View Records" link below.
Records were released to the public as a result of this request. You may retrieve these records immediately using the following link: View Records.Over the next 2 hours, these records are also being added to FOIAonline's search pages, further enabling you to retrieve these documents associated with your FOIA request at any time. (https://foiaonline.regulations.gov:443/foia/action/public/view/request?objectId=090004d2810a4a13)
Larry Auther
Office of Policy, USEPA

From: Teplitzky, Andy

Mr. Best:

My apologies for not replying to your earlier email; I was out of the office for an extended absence nursing a broken ankle and must have missed your email during this time.

We do have a status update for you. Our E-Discovery staff have informed us that they are finishing up processing the first batch of records and they anticipate uploading these documents into Relativity by the end of the month for us to review. The E-Discovery staff hasn’t given us an estimate of how many documents are in this initial batch of records, but we’ll check in once we’ve taken a look at them.

We apologize for the delay in replying to your FOIA request. If you have any other questions, feel free to email me or call me.

Thank you so much!

Andrew Teplitzky
Sr. Policy Advisor
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Office of Policy
1200 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20460
teplitzky.andy@epa.gov<mailto:teplitzky.andy@epa.gov>
202-566-2947

From: Teplitzky, Andy

Mr. Best:

Thanks for your inquiry regarding your FOIA request 002142. Your request is still chugging along and has certainly not been forgotten. E-Discovery is still churning out documents for us to look at – we’re a little over 19,000 records now… which amounts to about 86,000 pages! On our end, we are taking stock of things and sifting through documents as fast as we can, and we are working on putting together and training up our review team.

Our hope is for EPA to provide, at the very least, interim releases of documents by the end of the summer. I’ll keep you apprised of that goal as it progresses, but you should feel free to check with me for status updates. Thank you so much for your patience – this is quite a big undertaking for all of us.

Andrew Teplitzky
Sr. Policy Advisor
Office of Policy
U.S. EPA
202-566-2947
teplitzky.andy@epa.gov

From: Emma Best

Thanks so much for the update! I've disabled auto-follow ups for now since it sounds like you might have to give the Energizer response ("still going...") for awhile yet.

I really appreciate your offices work on this!

From: Emma Best

Thanks so much for the update! I've disabled auto-follow ups for now since it sounds like you might have to give the Energizer response ("still going...") for awhile yet.

I really appreciate your offices work on this!

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