The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

July 24, 2013

Other Views: Public owns EPA info

The Muskogee (Okla.) Phoenix

— Something is drastically wrong when states decide they must sue the federal government for information.

That problem was illustrated last week when 12 attorneys general sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for documents they say will reveal collaboration between the agency and environmental groups, at the expense of the states.

The states’ lawsuit claims the EPA invites legal action against itself from environmental groups, prompting court settlements that impose tougher restrictions on states. The attorneys general say they don’t have a chance to defend their state’s interests — or those of businesses and consumers — in this maneuver known as “sue and settle.”

“It’s a regulation-through-litigation type of initiative,” Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt told The Associated Press. “And we are not even a party to that litigation. That’s a troublesome thing.”

The states last August asked EPA for records of communications with environmental groups under the federal Freedom of Information Act. The agency negotiated the release of a more limited collection of documents until, Pruitt said, it rejected the request last spring.

We find it abhorrent that a federal agency needs a lawsuit thrown in its face before relinquishing documents that should available to the public.

Government must be transparent if it is to effectively represent its constituents. States should not have to sue for information that should be readily available to anyone.

— The Muskogee (Okla.) Phoenix