NEWS: Court Rules EPA Must Turn Over Tens of Thousands of Wheeler, Wherum Emails & Calendars

Previous FOIA Troves Included Revelations Which Helped Lead to Scott Pruitt’s Resignation

Adam Beitman, or 202-670-5585

WASHINGTON, DC - A federal court has ruled in favor of the Sierra Club that the Environmental Protection Agency must expedite the public release of approximately twenty thousand pages of emails, as well as calendars, for acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler, Air Office head Bill Wherum, and 23 other political staff involved in Wheeler’s rollbacks of critical public health and environmental safeguards.

“The law is clear: the EPA must produce these documents, it must do so quickly, and if necessary it must re-allocate staff to speed things up and lift the curtain on the toxic relationship between Trump’s appointees and the polluters they are supposed to be protecting us from” said Senior Sierra Club Attorney Elena Saxonhouse, one of the attorneys who litigated the case.

According to the court, Sierra Club provided “persuasive reasons for the urgency of its requests.” It noted that “If the Court were to adopt [EPA]'s plan, it would take over four years to complete the review, based on [EPA]’s updated numbers, a very far cry from making them 'promptly available' as required by FOIA.”

That urgency includes the facts that:

  1. Donald Trump has indicated he will formally nominate Wheeler, and that any revelations may be “relevant to the confirmation process.”

  2. The emails and calendars may expose “conflicts of interest” baseds on EPA staffers like Wheeler and Wherum’s “strong ties to regulated industries”

  3. The documents could help inform a response to EPA’s “rollbacks of dozens of the prior administration’s regulations.”

The Court also noted that, “some of the revelations that prompted the Administrator [Scott Pruitt] to resign in July 2018 came to light through the EPA’s response to [Sierra Club’s] earlier FOIA requests.”

“The Senate should not act on Wheeler’s expected nomination until we know exactly what he is up to behind the scenes. The revelations which FOIA’d emails uncovered about Scott Pruitt were unprecedented, shocking, and helped bring about his rapid downfall.” said Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune, “Now, we await tens of thousands of emails between Andrew Wheeler, his industry-conflicted deputies, and the polluters they are supposed to be protecting us from. Given Wheeler and Wherum’s history of exclusively protecting polluter profits, we can only imagine what abuses these documents are likely to uncover.”

The court also cites precedent to make clear that lack of resources is no excuse for delaying the release of EPA documents. Specifically, the court notes that EPA and other federal agencies can be required by FOIA to reallocate staff as needed in order to deliver these documents of extraordinary public interest on the court’s schedule.


About the Sierra Club

The Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with more than 3.5 million members and supporters. In addition to helping people from all backgrounds explore nature and our outdoor heritage, the Sierra Club works to promote clean energy, safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying, and legal action. For more information, visit