EPA Withholds "Deliberative" Docs on Arizona's Rosemont Mine

July 20, 2016

What are the environmental impacts of the open-pit Rosemont copper mine proposed barely 30 miles from Tucson? The public is still in the dark because the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is withholding documents.

EPA sent documents to the Army Corps of Engineers, which shares authority for granting the mine a permit, about the mine's impacts and plans for mitigating them. But EPA withheld some of those documents from a request under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), citing the FOIA exemption guarding "deliberative process."

The documents are still being sought by Tony Davis, a reporter for the Arizona Daily Star (and a member of the Society of Environmental Journalists), in a complex multipart request.

The "deliberative process" exemption is one of the most frequently used FOIA exemptions. It is meant to encourage frank discussion of pros and cons within the government before decisions are reached. But the widespread view that it is overused and sometimes abused led Congress to set time limits on it in the FOIA amendments signed into law last month by President Obama.

Davis has doggedly reported on the impacts of the proposed Rosemont mine, and a big portion of what he has been able to report to the public has been the result of FOIA requests.

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