District Court Issues Amended Protective Order Governing Permit Information Sought Under FOIA


As I previously reported, on January 27, 2015, the U.S. District Court for Minnesota granted summary judgment to EPA and two environmental groups defending EPA’s decision to release personal data submitted by a group of Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO)-farm facilities who were also applicants for Minnesota wastewater discharges. The case is American Farm Bureau Federation and National Pork Producers Council v. EPA. However, on February 6, 2015, the District Court released an Amended Protective Order pursuant to an agreement reached by the plaintiffs and defendants to limit the disclosure of the confidential information that is at issue in this case.

The Order was released over the objections of the Intervenors (Food & Water Watch, Environmental Integrity Project, and Iowa’s Citizens for Community Improvement). The “farm information” that had been collected by EPA in connection with a proposed National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) CAFO Reporting Rule included the names and addresses of famers and their family members, social security numbers email addresses, inspection records and communication records constituting communications between a farmer, the EPA or a relevant state. Some of the information that had been released to the Intervenors pursuant to 2012 FOIA requests had been made available to the general public, which concerned the plaintiffs in this case. The Order places restrictions on the use and dissemination of the “farm information” during the litigation of this case.

Additional Source: Columbia University, Greenwire; Permit Information Not Protected From Disclosure