Envtl. Integrity Project v. EPA, No. 16-5109, 2017 WL 2324136 (D.C. Cir. May 30, 2017) (Kavanaugh, J.)
Re: Request for data from surveys designed to collect data about pollution and gain insight into plant-specific business practices
Disposition: Affirming district court's grant of government's motion for summary judgment
- Exemption 4: The Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit holds that "Section 308 of the Clean Water Act does not expressly supersede Exemption 4 of FOIA." "Therefore, EPA permissibly invoked Exemption 4 to withhold the records at issue in this case." The court explains that "Exemption 4 of FOIA authorizes agencies to withhold 'trade secrets and commercial or financial information obtained from a person and privileged or confidential.'" "Section 308 of the Clean Water Act authorizes EPA to obtain records from power plants and states that those records 'shall be available to the public' unless EPA determines that the records 'would divulge methods or processes entitled to protection as trade secrets.'" The court relates that "the records requested by the environmental groups are exempt from disclosure under Exemption 4 of FOIA but seemingly must be disclosed under Section 308 of the Clean Water Act." "Which statute prevails in that circumstance?" "The Administrative Procedure Act directly answers that question. Section 559 of Title 5 provides that FOIA exemptions apply unless a later statute expressly supersedes or modifies those exemptions." The court finds that "Section 308 is the later statute here: Exemption 4 of FOIA was enacted in 1967, while Section 308 was enacted in 1972." "Section 308 does not expressly supersede Exemption 4." "Therefore, EPA permissibly invoked Exemption 4 to deny the environmental groups' FOIA request."