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Lawsuit Exposes that EPA Knowingly Hid Harmful Effects of Seresto Flea Collars Responsible for Thousands of Pet Deaths

In response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit brought by the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 2021, CBD obtained public records revealing that scientists in the EPA’s pesticide office were instructed to refrain from emailing about their growing concerns about the safety of flea collars linked to thousands of pet deaths. Indeed, one EPA scientist expressed his exasperation that the agency had ignored his professional concerns about Seresto and directed him not to discuss his concerns in writing, exclaiming “[o]ne can only hope this email finds its way into a FOIA request.” In response to another internally discussed concern, another EPA colleague replied “[i]t depends on if you want the real answer or just some talking points to cover our ass for doing nothing.” To date, the EPA has taken no action to inform the public about the harmful and, in some cases, fatal, effects of the Seresto collars that the agency has been aware of for several years.

Food & Water Watch Accuses USDA of Obstruction of FOIA Requests

Food & Water Watch filed suit in federal court claiming that the United States Department of Agriculture has used “obstructionist tactics” in an attempt to avoid answering the organization’s Freedom of Information Act requests related to the agency’s New Swine Inspection System, a program that eliminates maximum slaughter line speeds and reduces government required inspection.

Harvard Animal Law & Policy Clinic Succeeds in Forcing U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to Disclose Public Information About Wildlife Trade

In response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit brought by Harvard Law School’s Animal Law & Policy Clinic on behalf of the Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has released previously-withheld Law Enforcement Management and Information System (LEMIS) data about wildlife imports and exports, revealing that U.S. hunters imported more than 700,000 trophies taken from giraffes, rhinoceroses, and other species between 2016-2020. LEMIS data records plants and animals reported as entering and leaving the U.S. each year for hunting trophies, the exotic pet trade, fashion, and décor, and is a critical source of public information for advocates, lawyers, scientists, and the media. FWS released LEMIS data for decades until 2014 and only now is releasing post-2015 data for imports by individuals. Corporate import data is expected at the end of March 2022.

Animal Testing Oversight Committee Files Class Action to Stop Disclosure of Public Records

The Chair of the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) at University of Washington (UW) and seventy-four current or previous UW IACUC members filed a class action lawsuit against the University of Washington to enjoin the university from responding to PETA’s public records request for information about IACUC appointments without first redacting all names and identifying information about IACUC appointees. The IACUC, which typically includes those engaged in animal experimentation, is meant to monitor the use of animals used for experiments, and plaintiffs argue that disclosure of the records without redaction of all identifying information would infringe upon their constitutional right to freedom of association. Plaintiffs are seeking certification of the class, as well as declaratory and injunctive relief.

Lawsuit Alleges USDA Improperly Withheld Information About the Wild Horse & Burro Program

The American Wild Horse Campaign, a California-based advocacy organization, sued the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), alleging that the agency has violated the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) by failing to respond to Plaintiff’s December 5, 2021, FOIA request for records relating to the Bureau of Land Management’s Wild Horse & Burro Program. Plaintiff is seeking declaratory judgment and injunctive relief.

Lawsuit Alleges Federal Agencies Improperly Withheld Public Records About Plans to Weaken Endangered Species Act

The Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) sued the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) for alleged violations of the Freedom of Information Act. CBD alleges that the USDA and FWS have improperly withheld public records detailing discussions between political officials and agency staff about potential legislation that would weaken the Endangered Species Act. CBD seeks declaratory judgment and injunctive relief.

University of Missouri to Pay $175,000 in Attorney Fees to Beagle Freedom Project

The University of Missouri has reportedly settled a suit brought by Beagle Freedom Project over attorney fees from a 2015 case in which the University asked the nonprofit to pay over $80,000 to fulfill a freedom of information records request.

Environmental Groups Sue for Access to Public Records About Federal Oil and Gas Leasing Program

Environmental groups sued the U.S. Department of the Interior and the Bureau of Land Management for failing to release public records, including documents relating to the Department’s response to President Biden’s executive order for a review of the federal oil and gas leasing program. Plaintiffs allege that the withholding of requested records violates the Freedom of Information Act and deprives the groups of the ability to advance their respective missions relating to the protection of wildlife, wildlife habitats, and overall environmental health. Plaintiffs are seeking declaratory and injunctive relief.

Advocacy Organization Sues FDA for Failing to Provide Public Records Relating to Genetically Engineered Salmon

The Center for Food Safety (CFS) filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for unlawfully withholding public records regarding the FDA’s environmental assessment of genetically engineered salmon for human consumption and a planned Ohio production facility. CFS is seeking declaratory judgment and expedited processing of its FOIA request.

USDA Finalizes Update to Departmental FOIA Regulations

The United States Department of Agriculture has finalized a rule revising the department’s regulations regarding Freedom of Information Act requests. The new rule addresses the procedures both for submitting a request to the agency and that the agency follows when responding to the request. Among other changes, the rule announces that the agency will keep language that guides components of the agency when records need to be disclosed in reading rooms, but will not expand the guidance. The rule also codifies the Supreme Court’s ruling in Argus Leader, defining what is meant by “confidential” information in the context of Exemption 4 of the Act. The change is effective as of the date of publication, October 21, 2019.