Friends of the Earth and Earthjustice head to court over NOAA’s lack of FOIA transparency

Lawsuit challenges the agency’s unlawful year-long failure to respond requests


Liz Trotter, Earthjustice, (305) 332-5395 

Friends of the Earth today filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court in Maryland against the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for violations of the agency’s obligations under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Friends of the Earth is being represented in the litigation by attorneys at Earthjustice.

The complaint challenges the agency’s unlawful year-long failure to respond to Friends of the Earth’s FOIA request for recent records related to how NOAA processes and disposes of requests and fee waivers.

Friends of the Earth had filed the FOIA request in September 2018 to obtain insight into the reasons for NOAA’s recent and repeated delays, obstructions and failures to respond to FOIA requests. NOAA’s questionable tactics have prevented Friends of the Earth from obtaining and publicly disseminating documents that would give the public insight into the agency’s potentially unlawful dealings with industrial ocean fish farms, including its consideration of relevant science (or lack thereof) in providing federal funding supporting to startup facilities.

In response to today’s filing, Hallie Templeton, Senior Oceans Campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said, “NOAA is flouting the Freedom of Information Act. If the government is going to be accountable to the people, we must assure that the public can gain access to government records. The inaction by NOAA is a clear indication that the Trump administration is breaking yet another federal law put in place for the public’s interest. We need the court to ensure NOAA is complying with the law and force the agency to release these documents to the public.”

Chris Eaton, Senior Associate Attorney with Earthjustice who is representing Friends of the Earth, said, “NOAA’s recent attempt to stifle the release of accurate hurricane information is fitting with the agency’s pattern of repeatedly thwarting the public’s access to information under FOIA. The public deserves to know how and why NOAA is shirking its transparency mandates.”

Ominous wall cloud portending possible violent weather.
Ominous wall cloud portending possible violent weather. (Jerry Penry / NOAA / NWS)

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