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Activists Use FOIA to Ensure Availability of Thousands of Federal Datasets

The Center for Biological Diversity has announced an effort to prevent hundreds of environmental datasets on government websites from being removed by the Trump administration. Three separate Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests for data sets have been submitted to eight federal agencies. Many (perhaps most) of the datasets requested are currently available on government websites. A provision (5 U.S.C. 552(a)(2)(D)) of the 2016 FOIA Amendments requires agencies to post online in the agency’s FOIA Reading Room documents that are requested "3 or more times."

The FOIA requests were filed by The Center for Biological Diversity, the Center for Media and Democracy, and conservation biologist Stuart Pimm.

The eight agencies are: the Army Corps of Engineers, the Council on Environmental Quality, the Environmental Protection Agency, NASA, and the departments of agriculture, commerce, energy and interior.

The FOIA requests seek hundreds of data sets on energy usage, renewables, oil and gas projections, coal reserves, climate data, sea-level rise, human population, environmental justice and the status of scores of endangered and threatened species and other wildlife.

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