Federal Government Should Release Agency Opinions About Safety of Power Plant Water Rule

Published Nov 21, 2017

Harvard Law School filed an amicus brief with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on behalf of the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), arguing that the federal government should make public Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service opinions about whether an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) power plant water discharge regulation would adequately protect fish.

The services provided their biological opinions for the EPA to consider when finalizing the rule. The Endangered Species Act requires the EPA to consult with the services about regulations that may affect threatened or endangered species.

The Sierra Club filed the suit after the USFWS refused to release the services’ opinions, which the group requested under the Freedom of Information Act.

“In a sharp break with precedent, two federal agencies that are charged with protecting fish populations have kept secret two draft biological opinions in which their scientists apparently concluded that an EPA regulation would put fish populations in jeopardy,” said Ken Kimmell, UCS president. “We decided to weigh in on this case because it raises a fundamental question of scientific transparency and integrity. If the public cannot review the opinions of agency scientists, how can we know whether the government followed their advice? We trust that the court of appeals will rule that documents of this kind must be made available to the public.”

U.S. District Court agreed with the Sierra Club. The federal government appealed the court’s ruling to the Ninth Circuit, which will hold oral arguments in the case next year.

The Union of Concerned Scientists puts rigorous, independent science to work to solve our planet’s most pressing problems. Joining with people across the country, we combine technical analysis and effective advocacy to create innovative, practical solutions for a healthy, safe and sustainable future. For more information, go to www.ucsusa.org.