Hello, Is There Anybody in There?
- May 12, 2022
FERC losing FOIA request for nine months results in legal action
Today, federal watchdog Protect the Public’s Trust filed a transparency lawsuit against the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) over a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. The agency spent more than nine months ignoring the request and repeated emails seeking updates.
PPT filed the original request, seeking ethics waivers and decisions exempting political appointees from ethics obligations, in early June 2021 to the email address FERC provides on its website as the appropriate place to submit FOIA requests. At least three times over the next several months, PPT attempted to contact FERC to check on the status.
Finally, on the fourth attempt in early March 2022, PPT was able to prompt a response from FERC. The reply, coincidentally enough, came from the very same email address PPT had submitted the original request. After all this, FERC’s response was to claim they could not locate the June email, apparently upon the conclusion of furiously checking under all the agency’s office furniture, and suggest that PPT resubmit it. Far from complying with its legal obligations, FERC placed the burden on PPT to restart the FOIA process by resubmitting. This effectively moves the request to the back of the line, punishing PPT for FERC’s misplacing the original request.
“Add Protect the Public’s Trust to the long list of those condemned to try to climb out of the abyss of government bureaucracy,” stated Michael Chamberlain, Director of Protect the Public’s Trust. “We had high hopes with the Biden Administration’s promises to be the most transparent in history, and yet again with Attorney General Garland’s memo declaring transparency to be ‘a priority of this Administration.’ FERC’s misplacing our request for important ethics documents, then forcing us to bear the burden of this action, or inaction, represents another example in which these sentiments have turned out to be little more than words.”