EDF Sues Department of Transportation for Failure to Release Public Records

Public has a Right to Know about Possible Corruption Driving Attacks on Clean Car, Freight Truck Standards

December 19, 2018
Sharyn Stein, 202-572-3396, sstein@edf.org

(Washington, D.C. – December 19, 2018) Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) filed a lawsuit today to compel the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to release records relating to possible corruption behind Trump administration attacks on America’s common sense clean car and freight truck standards.

“EDF is going to court to enforce the American people’s right to know what’s driving the Trump administration’s attacks on our nation’s clean car and freight truck standards,” said EDF attorney Ben Levitan. “We will vigorously pursue this lawsuit so that the public can see any corruption behind the Trump administration’s reckless attacks on vital measures that protect public health and our environment.”

The records involved in the lawsuit pertain to the Clean Car Standards and provisions of the Clean Truck Standards that cover heavy-duty truck trailers.

A recent New York Times investigation of the behind-the-scenes role of the oil industry in pushing the Clean Cars rollback underscores the need to bring greater transparency to the Department of Transportation’s decision-making.

EDF requested the records under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) as part of our ongoing effort to ensure transparency and accountability in Trump administration actions threatening the environment and the health of all Americans.

DOT failed to release the requested records, as required by law. That failure undermines the public’s right to know and materially harms the public’s – including EDF’s – right to full participation in crucial rulemaking proceedings. So EDF filed a lawsuit today in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. This is the eighth time EDF has had to sue the Trump administration for failing to comply with the Freedom of Information Act.

Today’s lawsuit covers three FOIA requests submitted by EDF. In each case, the statutory deadline for DOT to release the records to the public has lapsed.

  • The first and second requests seek correspondence between top DOT political officials and external parties, which could include the auto industry or oil companies, relating to the administration’s attack on the Clean Car Standards. These requests also seek the schedules of DOT Secretary Elaine Chao, Deputy Secretary Jeffrey Rosen, and NHTSA Deputy Administrator Heidi King. It is common for cabinet secretaries and top officials to publicly release their schedules, but the Trump administration’s DOT leaders have kept the public in the dark, so these requests will help make those schedules public.
  • The third request seeks schedules and correspondence of certain DOT staff involved in the heavy-duty trailers provisions of the clean freight truck standards. Recent developments in litigation over the trailers standards indicate that DOT may be targeting the trailers provisions, and the records sought here will shed light on that threat.

Kaplan Kirsch & Rockwell LLP is representing EDF in this case.

You can find more information about EDF’s FOIA requests on our website.

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