Sunshine for Sale: Environmental Contractors and the Freedom of Information Act
35 Pages Posted: 5 Feb 2014 Last revised: 12 Feb 2014
Date Written: February 4, 2014
When Great Lakes Dredge & Dock signed a $122 million contract with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to dredge Miami’s harbor, they not only won a government bid, they entered into an agreement that limits the public’s access to information about the environmental impacts of a project which will forever change the harbor and its ecosystem. This information limitation occurs because the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), which grants U.S. citizens access to government information, does not apply to private entities. The FOIA is a vital tool for environmental protection and advocacy, exposing federal practices to the public eye and warning environmental and public health advocates of potential threats. However, the FOIA’s scope spares contractors from the law’s public scrutiny and discourse requirements. As swaths of information move from FOIA’s realm into the protected world of contractor practices, environmental information becomes veiled from public view. The FOIA is being hollowed out as the government outsourcing and public-private partnerships increase and contractors take over more and more traditionally regulatory roles. This paper explores the effects of outsourcing environmentally focused tasks and suggests using government contract clauses as a mechanism for assuring transparency in situations where the government allows private entities to do its environmental work.
Keywords: FOIA, Environmental Law, Contractors, Administrative Law
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