Description: Freedom of Information Act lawsuit seeking records related to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's model for assessing the cost and effectiveness of greenhouse gas emission standards.
Natural Resources Defense Council v. EPA
Filing Date Type File Action Taken Summary 08/22/2019 Opinion and Order Download Plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment denied and EPA's cross-motion for summary judgment granted. Federal Court Agreed with EPA that FOIA Exemption Applied to Model for Greenhouse Gas Emission Standards. The federal district court for the Southern District of New York ruled that EPA properly withheld the “core model” component of a tool for evaluating greenhouse gas emissions vehicle standards under the Freedom of Information Act’s (FOIA’s) “deliberative process privilege.” The court described the core model of the “Optimization Model for Reducing Emissions of Greenhouse Gasses from Automobiles” (OMEGA) as “a computer program … , which applies a series of algorithms to the input data to yield the output data.” In concluding that the FOIA exemption applied, the court first found that the deliberative process privilege did not apply solely to letters and memoranda. The court then found both that the OMEGA model was “predecisional” even though EPA did not rely on it in developing the greenhouse gas vehicle standards proposed in August 2018 and also that the OMEGA model was “deliberative” because “its disclosure ‘would inaccurately reflect or prematurely disclose the views of the agency’ regarding  how to analyze input data and the role of certain analytical tools … in determining [greenhouse gas] emissions standards.” The court further concluded that EPA had satisfied FOIA’s “foreseeable harm” requirement by describing how disclosure of the OMEGA model would chill internal discussion. The court also found that EPA had provided a “detailed justification” for its determination that non-exempt material was not segregable. 04/08/2019 Motion for Summary Judgment Download Memorandum of law filed by plaintiffs in support of motion for summary judgment and motion to expedite. 03/19/2019 Letter Download Letter submitted by EPA in response to plaintiffs' March 13 letter. 03/13/2019 Letter Download Letter submitted by plaintiffs in response to EPA's March 11 letter. The plaintiffs voluntarily narrowed their claims "to encompass only the set of highest priority records" and withdrew their pending motions to expedite and for partial summary judgment. They indicated they would file a new summary judgment motion that would encompass the entire case. 03/11/2019 Letter Download Letter submitted by EPA in response to plaintiffs' March 7 letter. 03/07/2019 Letter Download Letter submitted by plaintiffs in response to EPA's March 5 letter. 03/05/2019 Letter Download Letter submitted by EPA. EPA told the court that it had responded to the plaintiffs' request for priority records, rendering the plaintiffs' pending summary judgment motion moot. 12/28/2018 Motion for Summary Judgment Download Memorandum of law filed by plaintiffs in support of motion to expedite and motion for partial summary judgment. 12/03/2018 Complaint Download Complaint filed. Environmental Groups Filed FOIA Lawsuit to Compel Release of Technical Information Supporting Vehicle Standards. Natural Resources Defense Council and Environmental Defense Fund filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) seeking a response to the organizations’ request for “certain limited agency records relating to the technological feasibility of greenhouse gas emission standards.” The organizations alleged that they made the request after EPA published notice of its intent to revise greenhouse gas emission standards for light-duty vehicles. The particular records sought are related to the computer model developed by EPA to assess the cost and effectiveness of greenhouse gas emission standards, “the Optimization Model for reducing Emissions of Greenhouse gases from Automobiles (OMEGA).” The organizations said that EPA historically made such records public “as a matter of course” and that access to records was necessary “to enable meaningful public comment on highly-technical standards.”