Permit Information Not Protected From Disclosure


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 Operations (CAFO) farm facilities who were also applicants for Minnesota wastewater discharges. The plaintiffs argued that the release of this information was controlled by the Freedom of Information Act and that there is an exclusion protecting against the release of such personal data. They argued that they feared the loss of privacy, and that the release of this information promised to subject them to threats and harassment by groups and persons opposed to CAFO farm operations. The lawsuit was dismissed on standing grounds. a The District Court determined that in the age of the Internet, their personal data was already freely available, and so there was no standing. A 1989 Supreme Court decision, U.S. Department of Justice, et al., v. Reporters Committee For Freedom of the Press, et al., 489 U.S. 749, on which the plaintiffs relied, was distinguished primarily because of the changes to information gathering and collection made by the Internet. The case is American Farm Bureau Federation and National Pork Producers Council v. EPA.