PCTC Files FOIA Complaint Against USGS for Failure to Respond
ALEXANDRIA, Va. - July 16, 2014 - PRLog -- Today the Pavement Coatings Technology Council (PCTC) filed a complaint in the U.S District Court for the District of Columbia for injunctive relief against the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) because the agency has failed to even acknowledge, much less respond to, four appeals of its response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request (Case No. 14 cv 01200).
The FOIA request, filed April 15, 2011, sought scientific data and calculations, model input parameters and related documents and correspondence concerning USGS activities related to pavement coatings products from 2003 to the date of the FOIA request. To cover costs of responding to the request, the USGS demanded and PCTC paid $28,193. The USGS began slowly responding to the request in October 2011 and declared its response complete in August 2013. Between June and October 2013, the PCTC filed four appeals focused primarily on documents redacted or withheld based on Exemption 5, the deliberative process exemption. The USGS applied “deliberative process” to include selected data and calculations as well as to correspondence. Instances of the use of Exemption 6, the personal information exemption, to withhold sample location information were also appealed. The USGS response to the FOIA request includes few documents dated before 2007, hence the complaint filed today also asks that the USGS respond with additional documents or account for the absence of those documents.
The USGS has not responded to any of the four appeals – not even to acknowledge receipt. The USGS has also not responded to PCTC’s attempts to inquire about the status of the four appeals. The Pavement Council is very interested in all documents related to USGS pavement product activities, and particularly in documents that may pertain to underlying data that has been withheld from the public. Included in the response to the April 15, 2011 FOIA request was information about input parameters for 4 of the 200 model runs used by the USGS to identify pavement sealants as a dominant source of PAHs in sediments nationwide. This information allowed recreation of the model, and provides clear evidence of the flaws in the USGS approach to PAH source identification. However, the USGS provided information about the identities of samples used to connect PAHs in sediments in Austin, TX to pavement sealers only after PCTC requested the assistance of the American Chemistry Society’s ethics committee. During the more than three years since first filing the FOIA request, PCTC has repeatedly expressed concern that USGS has ignored President Obama’s directive and Attorney General Eric Holder’s Guidelines concerning the need for governmental agencies (like USGS) to be accountable and transparent. PCTC believes that the documents withheld by USGS will further demonstrate that the USGS violated its own guidelines in its sealant studies.For example, the Pavement Council hopes that information resulting from the complaint filed today will help explain the USGS decision to use 20 samples that are not connected spatially or temporally to the locations of the USGS Austin parking lot studies – 8 from one creek located elsewhere in Austin and 12 from Fort Worth, some 200 miles away – as indicators of PAH provenance. Regardless of the reason for USGS decisions, data from subsequent studies by PCTC and by the City of Austin show that pavement sealants were not an identifiable source of PAHs in Austin sediment either before or after Austin banned the product in 2006.
Members of pavementcouncil.org are manufacturers of pavement sealants and their suppliers. Also known as the Pavement Coatings Technology Council (PCTC), PavementCouncil.org is a not-for-profit trade association engaged in research, education, training and communications with the goal of improving the public’s understanding of the pavement coatings business. Most of the companies involved in the pavement coatings industry are small and medium size businesses that generate well-paying jobs and support local economies. They are the types of businesses that are proud to be a part of your community.
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