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Am. Farm Bureau Fed'n v. EPA, 836 F.3d 963 (8th Cir. 2016) (Colloton, J.)


Am. Farm Bureau Fed'n v. EPA, 836 F.3d 963 (8th Cir. 2016) (Colloton, J.)

Re: Reverse FOIA case regarding requests for records concerning concentrated animal feeding operations

Disposition: Reversing district court's grant of EPA's- motion for summary judgment and remanding

  • Reverse FOIA & Litigation Considerations, Standing: The Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit "conclude[s] [that] the district court erred in dismissing this case for lack of standing[]" because "the [intervenor] associations have established a concrete and particularized injury in fact traceable to the EPA's action and redressable by judicial relief." The court finds that "[the intervenors] allege that the EPA's disclosure of their personal information was based on a misapplication of a FOIA exemption designed to protect personal privacy." "That allegation and the undisputed evidence of nonconsensual disclosures or impending disclosures by the EPA suffice to establish an injury in fact that was caused by the agency and is redressable by the court." "The [intervenors] therefore have standing to challenge the agency's action."
  • Reverse FOIA & Exemption 6: The Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit "determine[s] that the EPA abused its discretion in deciding that the information at issue was not exempt from mandatory disclosure under Exemption 6[.]" The court notes that, "[a]lthough the district court ruled that the plaintiffs lacked standing to sue, the [district] court's decision in substance addressed the merits of whether the EPA's disclosure constituted a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy subject to Exemption 6 of FOIA." Therefore, the court considers the merits of Exemption 6. The court "conclude[s] that the EPA's disclosure of spreadsheets containing personal information about owners . . . would invade a substantial privacy interest of the owners while furthering little in the way of public interest that is cognizable under FOIA." The court "conclude[s] that the organizations' members have a substantial privacy interest in the personal information at issue." Specifically, the court finds that "[t]hat information about a particular owner might be obtained through publicly-available sources likewise does not preclude a substantial privacy interest." "There is an important distinction 'between the mere ability to access information and the likelihood of actual public focus on that information.'" Additionally, the court finds that "the disclosure of names, addresses, phone numbers, e-mail addresses, and GPS coordinates does not directly shed light on the agency's performance of its statutory duties."
Court Decision Topic(s)
Court of Appeals opinions
Exemption 6
Litigation Considerations, Standing
Reverse FOIA
Updated January 14, 2022