A spokesperson for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) says the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) attempt to recall the CAFO (concentrated animal feeding operation) information it provided to environmental groups “is a little too late”.
“From our perspective, the information was released and it’s still going to be out there in the public domain, no matter what the EPA tries to do,” says NCBA deputy environmental counsel Ashley McDonald.
The EPA is asking the three environmental groups to return the information provided to them under the Freedom of Information Act. The agency says that information for ten of the 29 states that were part of the release contained some personal data, including individual names, email addresses, phone numbers, personal addresses and facility names. EPA has now determined that the personal information should not have been disclosed under the FOIA request.
“We’re glad that EPA took a second look and realized that they should not have released all this information that they did. We’ve been saying that for two months. So we’re happy that they actually recognized that,” says McDonald. “But again, our position is basically it’s a little bit too late to actually prevent this information from being out in the public domain. They should have done their job the first time and they just, frankly, did not.”
Senate Republicans on the Environment and Public Works Committee have sent a letter to the acting EPA administrator asking him to detail steps EPA is taking to investigate the matter. The senators are asking the agency to examine possible conflicts of interest or “inappropriate relationships” between EPA employees and the groups that requested the information.
McDonald says they, too, have concerns. “We do see kind of a revolving door with environmental groups—people who work for those groups—and the EPA,” she says.
“Obviously something happened where EPA completely dropped the ball on addressing and analyzing this information before it went out the door.”