|Submitted||June 21, 2017|
To Whom It May Concern:
This is a request under the Freedom of Information Act. I hereby request the list of Twitter accounts that EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt's official account (@EPAScottPruitt) has blocked. This can be gathered by going to "Settings and privacy" (https://twitter.com/settings/account) then the left menu's "Blocked accounts."
I respectfully request that you waive all fees in connection with this request as provided by 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(4)(A)(iii). It is in the public interest to know who and how many people the EPA administrator has chosen to block on a public communications platform that is used to promote official EPA activities. The Sierra Club is a national environmental nonprofit with no commercial interest in obtaining the requested information. Instead, our organization intends to analyze and disseminate the requested information free of charge so that the public can be better informed and meaningfully participate in government accountability and transparency.
In the event that there are fees, please 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.
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=090004d2813bf1b5)
* Tracking Number: EPA-HQ-2017-008672
* Requester Name: Alexander Rony
* Date Submitted: 06/21/2017
* Request Status: Submitted
* Description: Requesting the list of Twitter accounts that EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt's official account (@EPAScottPruitt) has blocked.
06/29/2017 03:35 PM FOIA Request: EPA-HQ-2017-008672
Your request for Fee Waiver for the FOIA request EPA-HQ-2017-008672 has been denied. Additional details for this request are as follows:
* Request Created on: 06/21/2017
* Fee Waiver Disposition Reason: Did not address the criteria
* Request Long Description: Requesting the list of Twitter accounts that EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt's official account (@EPAScottPruitt) has blocked.
This is a Freedom of Information Act Appeal for Request Number EPA-HQ-2017-008672. I believe the Environmental Protection Agency erred in not providing me with a fee waiver as provided by 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(4)(A)(iii) and 40 C.F.R. § 2.107(l).
Sierra Club is the nation’s oldest grassroots organization with more than 2.9 million members and supporters nationwide. Sierra Club is a leading non-governmental organization seeking to educate and mobilize the public on issues of environmental protection including climate change, fossil fuel energy, clean energy and clean water. Sierra Club has spent years promoting the public interest through the development of policies that protect human health and the environment, and has routinely received fee waivers under FOIA.
FOIA was designed to provide citizens a broad right to access government records. FOIA’s basic purpose is to “open agency action to the light of public scrutiny,” with a focus on the public’s “right to be informed about what their government is up to.” U.S. Dep’t of Justice v. Reporters Comm. For Freedom of Press, 489 U.S. 749, 773-74 (1989) (internal quotation and citations omitted). In order to provide public access to this information, FOIA’s fee waiver provision requires that “[d]ocuments shall be furnished without any charge or at a [reduced] charge,” if the request satisfies the standard. 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(4)(A)(iii). The 1986 fee waiver amendments were designed specifically to provide non-profit organizations such as Sierra Club access to government records without the payment of fees. Ettlinger v. FBI, 596 F. Supp. 867, 872 (D. Mass. 1984) (fee waiver provision intended “to prevent government agencies from using high fees to discourage certain types of requesters and requests,” which are “consistently associated with requests from journalists, scholars, and non-profit public interest groups.”).
As explained below, this FOIA request satisfies the factors listed in EPA’s governing regulations for waiver or reduction of fees, as well as the requirements of fee waiver under the FOIA statute – that “disclosure of the information is in the public interest because it is likely to contribute significantly to public understanding of the operations or activities of the government and is not primarily in the commercial interest of the requester.” 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(4)(A)(iii), see also 40 C.F.R. § 2.107(l).
1. The subject matter of the requested records specifically concerns identifiable “operations and activities of the government.”
The requested records relate to the manner in which a cabinet secretary accepts public input using his official social media account. This professional account is frequently used to promote the operations and activities of Administrator Scott Pruitt and the EPA.
2. The disclosure of the requested documents would be meaningfully informative and “likely to contribute to an understanding of Federal government operations or activities.”
The question of whether or not government officials can block followers on social media is an open one, being debated in legal and political circles. At the same time, there has been intense media scrutiny about politicians and top officials who block followers. See Donald Trump (https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2017/07/11/president-trump-sued-critics-blocked-his-twitter-account/467526001/), Gov. Matt Bevin (http://www.courier-journal.com/story/news/politics/2017/06/15/kentucky-gov-matt-bevin-blocks-hundreds-twitter-and-facebook/361281001/), and former Gov. Rick Perry (http://www.adweek.com/digital/texas-governor-rick-perry-blocks-media-from-his-twitter-account-twitter-reacts/).
Once the requested documents are made available, Sierra Club will analyze them and present its findings to its members and online activists and the general public in a manner that will meaningfully enhance the public’s understanding of EPA’s activities. The requested records are not otherwise in the public domain and are not accessible other than through a FOIA request. The documents requested will thus be “meaningfully informative” and “likely to contribute” to an understanding of EPA’s operations.
3. The disclosure would contribute to the understanding of the public at large, as opposed to the individual understanding of the requester or a narrow segment of interested persons.
Sierra Club has longstanding experience and expertise on issues related to government accountability and transparency, the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, climate policy, the protection of the natural environment, and the development and use of energy resources, all of which are within the scope of the EPA Administrator.
Sierra Club disseminates the information it receives through FOIA requests in a variety of ways, such as: analysis and distribution to the media, distribution through publication and mailing, posting on its website, emailing and list serve distribution to our members across the U.S., and via public meetings and events. Every year the Sierra Club website receives 26,298,200 unique visits and over 30 million page views; on average, the site gets 72,049 visits per day. Sierra Magazine is a bi-monthly magazine with a printed circulation of approximately 650,000 copies. Sierra Club Insider, an electronic newsletter, is sent to nearly 3 million people twice a month. In addition, Sierra Club disseminates information obtained by FOIA requests through comments to administrative agencies, and where necessary, through the judicial system. In the past, Sierra Club has published, posted, and disseminated numerous stories on coal and coal power plants regarding their impacts on health, the environment and alternative energy. This includes information on Sierra Club’s web pages, such as our Beyond Coal Campaign portal, our Clean Energies Solutions portal and our press releases.
Sierra Club intends to share the information received from this FOIA request with our impacted members across the country, the media and our allies who share a common interest in the operations of the EPA under the new Administrator.
Sierra Club unquestionably has the “specialized knowledge” and “ability and intention” to disseminate the information requested in the broad manner outlined above, and to do so in a manner that contributes to the understanding of the “public-at-large.”
4. The disclosure would contribute “significantly” to public understanding of government operations or activities.
Sierra Club members and the public at large are gravely concerned about the EPA’s anti-regulatory agenda, close ties to polluting industries, and coordination with champions of those industries in Congress and state governments. Policy experts are closely watching who Administrator Pruitt is meeting with in order to decipher upcoming policy changes. The activities of Administrator Pruitt on social media further disclose how the agency may view its mission. Disclosure of the records requested above will significantly enhance the public’s understanding of these activities.
5. The requester has no commercial interest that would be furthered by the requested disclosure.
Sierra Club has no commercial interest in the requested records. Nor does it have any intention to use these records in any manner that “furthers a commercial, trade, or profit interest” as those terms are commonly understood. Sierra Club is a nonprofit, tax-exempt organization under sections 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code, and as such has no commercial interest. The requested records will be used for the furtherance of Sierra Club’s mission to inform the public on matters of vital importance to the environment and public health.
Sierra Club respectfully requests that EPA waive processing and copying fees pursuant to 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(4)(A) because the public will be the primary beneficiary of this requested information. In the event that your agency denies a fee waiver, please send a written explanation for the denial. Please do not incur expenses beyond $35 without first contacting our office for explicit authorization.
08/25/2017 12:10 PM FOIA Request: EPA-HQ-2017-008672
EPA-HQ-2017-008672 has been processed with the following final disposition: No records.