Posts Tagged ‘Freedom of Information Act’


How to FOIA: Environmental Protection Agency

When an environmental story breaks, there’s one agency that always seems to get called for comment: the Environmental Protection Agency. “Environment” is in the name, after all. EPA handles between 9,000 and 12,000 Freedom of information requests each year, according to FOIA.gov, ranking it 15th among all government departments and federal agencies in amount of records requests. Their track record for processing and granting requests, when compared to other departments, isn’t half bad. It’s also not good. Out of over 12,600 total active FOIA requests in FY 2014, the EPA processed 10,130; or 80%. Processed doesn’t mean granted, however, and by the end of the calendar year, over 2,500 requests were still awaiting a decision.

Those aren’t the odds a reporter wants, but better than the 103,480 records sitting in backlog at the Department of Homeland Security or the 3,373-day-old request awaiting a decision at the Department of Defense.

http://www.foia.gov/data.html

http://www.foia.gov/data.html

 

Explore more FOIA stats here.

How does FOIA work at the EPA?

The EPA presumes government openness, its website claims, releasing national information and making discretionary decisions regarding state, private and possibly exempt requests. Filing a FOIA request is “neither complicated nor time-consuming,” the resource page reads. Experienced reporters would tell you it’s a false claim. Even though the agency promotes government transparency and provides several online resources, it remains one of the most difficult to contact or obtain information from, according to Christy George, former president of the Society of Environmental Journalists.

Like with other departments, FOIA requests must be made in writing, either through snail mail or FOIAonline. The agency has twenty days to respond, but the clock starts ticking only after the specific information to be requested has been identified and any fees paid. Journalists may be charged $0.15 per page for photocopying after the first 100 pages. The 20-day response period can be extended by fee waiver proceedings, appeals processes to the National FOIA Officer, or with “large-scale” projects that require information from multiple agencies.

Nine exemptions may exclude your information of interest from being released by any department.

  1. Classified national defense and foreign relations information.
  2. Internal agency rules and practices.
  3. Information that is prohibited from disclosure by another federal law.
  4. Trade secrets and other confidential business information.
  5. Inter-agency or intra-agency communications that are protected by legal privileges.
  6. Information involving matters of personal privacy (protected under the Privacy Act or containing sensitive personally identifiable information).
  7. Information compiled for law enforcement purposes, to the extent that the production of those records:
    1. Could reasonably be expected to interfere with enforcement proceedings.
    2. Would deprive a person of a right to a fair trial or an impartial adjudication.
    3. Could reasonably be expected to constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.
    4. Could reasonably be expected to disclose the identity of a confidential source.
    5. Would disclose techniques and procedures for law enforcement, investigations or prosecutions, or would disclose guidelines for law enforcement investigations or prosecutions.
    6. Could reasonably be expected to endanger the life or physical safety of any individual.
  8. Information relating to the supervision of financial institutions.
  9. Geological information on wells.

Number nine seems problematic, as many stories analyzing oil wells and fracking would need to rely on this information. But a larger challenge, says journalist Michael Corey from the Center of Investigative Reporting, is getting through the “stone wall” of trade secrets and noncompliance of large industrial companies. Companies the EPA has the power to regulate, but not the power to expose.

Contacting the EPA

EPA is divided into ten regions, each with its own Regional Freedom of Information Officer. Contact information is listed on the EPA’s official website along with a map in case you don’t know your particular region’s number or officer.

Requests can also be made through EPA headquarters, and nearly 2,000 records are every year. Surprisingly, Regions 5 (IL, IN, MI, MN, OH, WI) and 2 (NJ, NY, PR, VI) are just as busy as headquarters, if not more so, but grant a higher percentage of requests per year. The general consensus among environmental reporters, says Inside Climate News reporter Lisa Song, is that regional staff are more helpful than EPA headquarters, which communicate almost completely by email and consistently shuttle interviews through public information officers rather than expert scientists and officials.

EPA FOIA requests by region, data from http://www.foia.gov/data.html.

EPA FOIA requests by region, data from http://www.foia.gov/data.html.

Find your region and contact office here.

Find the agency organization chart here.

What is the EPA doing to improve FOI?

Under new administrator Gina McCarthy, EPA is releasing an increasing amount of data online (see some cool resources below). According to the 2015 Chief FOIA Officer’s Report to the US Justice Department (required of all agencies), embracing digital information has led to the release of over 300,000 online records since 2012. National topics include: climate change,  lead, asbestos, and a Reduce, Reuse, Recycle initiative. EPA reported last year that only 67 FOIA requests were denied and the time for expedited processing was reduced to 6.8 days.

However, the digital side also has its pitfalls. Question 16 of the report asks, “Do your agency’s FOIA professionals use e-mail or other electronic means to communicate with requesters whenever feasible?” Yes, says the EPA; which for journalists, also means that mere email responses from public information staff often take the place of face-to-face interviews with knowledgeable scientists or officials.

Read the entire report here.

Resources

My Environment is very neat and personalized link to track air and water quality, pollution levels, energy use, and health information for a given state, city, or zip code. The app also offers comparisons to previous years and compiles the data into graphical form. The My Maps extension creates downloadable interactive maps. If you have time, be sure to click on the plus signs and “Learn more” links to find deeper information. For example, this map below displays the water quality in my hometown, and clicking on the little blue symbol reveals the name of the company responsible for the toxic releases: JCI Jones Chemicals (no relation to yours truly). The raw data is also available for download.

Merrimack NH water data from EPA MyMaps app.

Merrimack NH water data from EPA MyMaps app.

National Service Center for Environmental Publications (NSCEP). This online collection includes factsheets, research findings, and policy guidelines dating back to 1976. Documents can be downloaded for free or paper copies can be ordered if in stock and available. However only five documents can be ordered within a two-week time frame and fees might apply for requesting out-of-stock documents from the National Technical Information Service.

The Environmental Database Gateway. A metadata collection of information from geospatial and nongeospatial sources, linked to an information resource and web-based map viewer. Data can be found via a simple or advanced search and the “reuse” capability means  users can output and embed search content.

Developer CentralThis website features over forty pages of apps created by third-party web developers based on EPA data. Top apps include “Right to Know” and “EPA UV index.” Most apps include source codes, and the original datasets can be found on the “Data Showcase.”

Environmental Protection Agency Website. Explore the agency’s official site to find a list of their associated research facilities, laws and executive orders, and financial and budget information and history.

Report

Now that you have these resources, how will you use them in your next story? Tweet @amayrianne with your ideas.

Ashley Mayrianne Jones, SPJ’s summer 2015 Pulliam/Kilgore Fellow, focuses on utilizing FOIA and open government data to improve investigative environmental reporting. Follow her blog for the latest tips, tricks and news updates. Email Ashley at amayrianne@spj.org or tweet @amayrianne.

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Must read FOI stories – 7/18/14

Every week I do a roundup of the freedom of information stories around the Web. If you have an FOI story you want to share, send me an email or tweet me.

Special congrats to the FOIA advocacy website MuckRock, they got a shout out from the Daily Show this week for one of their FOIA requests:

David Schick is the summer 2014 Pulliam/Kilgore Freedom of Information intern for SPJ,  reporting and researching public records and FOI issues. Contact him at dschick@spj.org or interact on Twitter: @davidcschick

 

Must read FOI stories – 7/07/14

Every week I’ll be doing a roundup of the freedom of information stories around the Web. If you have an FOI story you want to share, send me an email or tweet me (Missed last week because of 4th of July, so you’re getting a double dose this week.)

  • No moving targets in FOIA denials: Missouri judge rules that government agencies cannot give a different exemption than the original one used to deny the FOIA request after being sued.
  • Judicial Watch, a government accountability group, filed a legal motion about the “lost emails” of ex-IRS official Lois Learner.
  • FOIA suffers setback in South Carolina at the hands of the legislature and Supreme Court, which recently ruled that public bodies don’t have to issue agendas for regularly scheduled meetings.
  •  Massachusetts SWAT team claims they’re immune from public records requests, ACLU sues.

David Schick is the summer 2014 Pulliam/Kilgore Freedom of Information intern for SPJ,  reporting and researching public records and FOI issues. Contact him at dschick@spj.org or interact on Twitter: @davidcschick

 

Must read FOI stories – 6/13/14

Every week I’ll be doing a round up of the freedom of information stories around the Web. If you have an FOI story you want to share, send me an email or tweet me.

  • A Circuit Court Judge will decide on whether text messages exchanged between government officials need to be released under FOIA in a lawsuit filed by PETA. The first defense the city of Norfolk, Virginia, offered was that its public employees don’t save their messages, then it said there was no way of retrieving them. Maybe their next excuse will be, “The dog ate ’em.”
  • FOI advocacy groups want to close loop holes in FOIA regulations. Advocates say “agencies lack penalties for withholding information, overuse exemptions provided within FOIA and deal inconsistently and unfairly toward requesters.”
  • After 10,000 requests, MuckRock files FOIA lawsuit against the CIA. You can read all about in their editorial, “Why we’re suing the CIA.”
  • FOIA request filed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation reveals FBI’s Next Generation Identification facial recognition program will consist of a database of more than 52 million pictures. FBI Director says he doesn’t think the agency will spy on Americans with it. (Apparently he missed the memo from the NSA.)

David Schick is the summer 2014 Pulliam/Kilgore Freedom of Information intern for SPJ,  reporting and researching public records and FOI issues. Contact him at dschick@spj.org or interact on Twitter: @davidcschick

 

FOI Daily Dose: Illinois attorney clarifies public records ruling; National Press Club debates practices of public affairs offices

Illinois attorney clarifies public records ruling

An Illinois attorney clarified a public records ruling issued July 16 by the Fourth District Appellate Court, according to the Chicago Tribune.

The ruling said emails and text messages sent during public meetings about public business are public records.

But Peter Friedman, a Lake Bluff village attorney and a partner at Holland & Knight, clarified that the ruling does not apply to any electronic communications not pertaining to public business or those sent outside of board meetings.

“The appellate court correctly determined that private electronic communications outside the context of a board meeting are not public records under FOIA (Freedom of Information Act),” Friedman told the Tribune.

 National Press Club debating practices of federal public affairs offices

The National Press Club in Washington, DC,  is hosting a panel on Aug. 12 to debate whether federal public affairs practices are more of a hindrance or a help to reporters.

Public affairs offices typically require reporters to go through the press office to arrange interviews.

Those skeptical of the process complain that it limits who they interview. They are also frustrated that some companies require members of the communications team to be present with employees during their interview, according to the Press Club.

Other people feel public affairs professionals ensure that the press gets accurate information and a coherent message.

The debate will feature a panel of experts on both sides of the issue. The panel will be moderated by John M. Donnelly, chairman of the National Press Club’s Press Freedom Committee and a senior writer with CQ Roll Call.

Panel experts include:

  • Linda Petersen: Managing editor, The Valley Journals of Salt Lake; chairwoman SPJ’s Freedom of Information Committee; and president of the Utah Foundation for Open Government
  • Carolyn Carlson: Former AP reporter; past SPJ national president; assistant professor of communication at Kennesaw State University near Atlanta; and author of two surveys on the relationship between public affairs staff and the press
  • John Verrico: President-elect of the National Association of Government Communicators
  • Kathryn Foxhall: Freelance reporter who has extensively researched the issue

FOI Daily Dose: Reporters Committee challenges decision hiding records between Army and third-party contractor

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press filed a friend-of-the-court brief earlier this month asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review an appeals court decision about Exemption 5 of the federal Freedom of Information Act, a news release said.

The case, American Management Services LLC, d/b/a Pinnacle v. Department of the Army, is a civil suit between two private real estate companies, Pinnacle and Clark, that worked on a joint project managing private family housing on two Army bases, according to the American Bar Association. Clark learned that Pinnacle engaged in fraud, and it presented a binder of evidence to the Army, so the Army granted Clark permission to sue Pinnacle.

When Pinnacle found out, it asked the Army for the binder and other communications with Clark, but the Army refused to provide them. Pinnacle filed a FOIA request for the documents and received 55 of them, but the Army refused to disclose more than 800 additional pages based on FOIA Exemptions 4 and 5.

The U.S. Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., ruled the Army’s refusal to disclose its communications with Clark was warranted under Exemption 5 because Clark (the third-party contractor) shares a “common interest” with the government.

The Justice Department calls Exemption 5 “quite broad” and says it “protects ‘inter-agency or intra-agency memorandums or letters which would not be available by law to a party other than an agency in litigation with the agency.’”

It also says Exemption 5 has a work-product privilege for information shared between a government agency and “a party holding common interest with the agency.”

But RCFP is questioning the court’s justification on grounds that Exemption 5 typically only shields inter- or intra-agency records and communications—not records between the government and a third-party.

In a July 3 news release announcing their decision to come alongside Pinnacle, Bruce D. Brown, executive director of RCFP, said:  “Congress was very clear in its intent to limit Exemption 5 to internal government records that could be considered privileged in litigation. Allowing the government to broadly withhold records documenting its interactions with third parties creates a dangerous vehicle for government contractors to hide information from the public. In addition to being in conflict with both legislative and judicial precedent, it would become more difficult for the press and, by extension the public, to engage in effective oversight of contractors’ operations.”

Kara Hackett is SPJ’s Pulliam/Kilgore Freedom of Information intern, a freelance writer and a free press enthusiast. Contact her at khackett@spj.org or on Twitter: @KaraHackett.

Connecticut FOI advocate says law after Sandy Hook shootings protecting photos goes too far

ColleenMurphy

Colleen Murphy, executive director of Connecticut’s Freedom of Information Coalition, is on a task force weighing homicide victims’ privacy under the Freedom of Information Act with the public’s right to know.
(Photo provided by Colleen Murphy)

About three months after the December 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., left 20 first-graders and six adults dead, filmmaker Michael Moore, writing on the Huffington Post, suggested the gruesome photos from the crime scene be voluntarily released by families to “finish off the NRA” in the gun control debate.

In response, the families posted a petition on Change.org that collected 100,000 signatures urging Connecticut legislators “to pass a law that would keep sensitive information, including photos and audio, about this tragic day private and out of the hands of people who’d like to misuse it for political gain.”

It set into motion what became Senate Bill 1149, a blanket ban state lawmakers passed June 5 barring disclosure of all investigatory photos of homicide victims for one year.

The ban exempts all images and audio records relating to a homicide victim’s condition from public record “to the extent that such record could reasonably be expected to constitute an unwarranted invasion of the personal privacy of the victim or the victim’s surviving family members.”

It  soared through both chambers in a matter of 45 minutes and was swiftly signed into law by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy.

But for Colleen Murphy, executive director of Connecticut’s Freedom of Information Coalition, the decision requires more deliberation—not because homicide photos should litter the Web, but because fast-made, short-sighted changes to the state’s long-standing Freedom of Information Act could give rise to overly broad interpretations and unforeseen consequences.

“We all want to prevent any further pain to people affected by this tragedy, but having that emotional reaction without trying to put other safeguards in place can be risky,” Murphy said.

The law was born behind closed doors in secret meetings among the governor’s staff, legislative leaders and the state’s top prosecutor. It bypassed the traditional public hearing process and was signed into law within 12 hours of the vote.

Along the way, the exemptions in the bill were expanded from Newtown-specific privacy protections to include protections for all homicide victims when the the Black and Puerto Rican Caucus of senators and House members argued that lone victims on city streets should be entitled to the same respect as the Newtown victims and their families.

“There was a desire to protect the families without thinking through all of the consequences for the future,” Murphy said.

Luckily, the law also includes a statute requiring the creation of 17-member task force to watch its applications and make recommendations assessing the “balance between victim privacy under the Freedom of Information Act and the public’s right to know.”

As executive director of the state FOI coalition, Murphy was automatically appointed to the task force, and other members were supposed to be selected by July 1.

But the Newtown city administration missed a deadline to appoint selections to the force, and Murphy said details about the whole process are still murky.

The group is supposed to convene by Aug.1 and meet at least once a month thereafter until December so it can make recommendations to the General Assembly on Jan. 1.

Until it happens, Murphy has been lying low and attempting to advise the FOIC about how to apply the new law.

Before the June ruling, Connecticut’s FOIA already made exemptions for law enforcement records and invasions of privacy.

But Murphy said these law enforcement exceptions largely pertained to information used in ongoing investigations, and since there is no ongoing investigation in the Newtown case, it was unclear whether Newtown photos were already protected— especially since Connecticut’s privacy standards expired when a person died.

The new law extends a dead person’s privacy to his or her family members beyond the grave regardless of an ongoing investigation.

But Murphy said permitting privacy protections for family members opens the door to complaints from friends and other stakeholders who might argue that releasing a homicide victim’s photo infringes their privacy, too.

“The question is: How broad do we get here?” Murphy said. “How much leeway do public officials have if they’re getting requests for a certain record, and whose privacy are they looking at to see if it’s invaded?”

She argued that in the 2004 Supreme Court ruling, National Archives & Records Administration v. Favish, the nebulous phrase “unwarranted invasions of privacy” was used to thwart investigations about the suspicious death of high-ranking White House lawyer Vincent Foster.

When Foster was found dead in 1993 with a gunshot wound in his head and revolver in his right hand, attorney Allan Favish requested access to more than 100 photos of Foster’s body at the scene of his death and during his autopsy.

Foster’s family didn’t want the photos released because two government investigations already ruled Foster’s death was suicide. Even so, Favish thought the government rulings were a cover-up for murder because Foster was involved in the investigation of possible fraud by the Clinton family in the Whitewater real estate venture.

A lengthy legal battle landed the debate in the Supreme Court where the court ruled for the first time that family members of a deceased person have the legal authority to block the release of photos of that person on grounds of an “unwarranted invasion” of family privacy.

Although that case was a major disappointment for public access advocates, Murphy said she’s seen similar language used to block even family members from details about their loved one’s death.

Just last month the Rhode Island attorney general’s office told the sister of man who hanged himself in a state prison that she did not have the right to see a police narrative detailing her brother’s death investigation.

The attorney general justified withholding the information on grounds that releasing the narrative “could reasonably be expected to constitute an unwarranted invasion of (her family’s) personal privacy rights,” even though she—a family member—requested it.

“When you think about that, it gives you a lot of pause about this issue and putting the (‘unwarranted invasion of privacy’) standard in there,” Murphy said. “It’s something I’ll be watching closely.”

Kara Hackett is SPJ’s Pulliam/Kilgore Freedom of Information intern, a freelance writer and a free press enthusiast. Contact her at khackett@spj.org or on Twitter: @KaraHackett.

Full disclosure: SPJ National president Sonny Albarado and Connecticut chapter president Jodie Mozdzer Gil wrote a letter to Gov. Malloy on May 23 questioning Connecticut lawmakers’ secret deliberation and their decision to restrict access to public records and photos. Albarado and Gil wrote: “We have seen similar efforts in other states to close access to routinely available information about crime and victims of crime in the misplaced belief that secrecy protects victims and witnesses. This legislation does not honor the victims of the Newtown shooting, and the tragedy should not be used as an excuse to close access to public documents, the release of which does not change the circumstances surrounding the Newtown massacre. In fact, their release could debunk conspiracy theories and provide lessons worth learning.”

FOI Daily Dose: Virginia adds FOIA exemptions; Michigan columnist says attempts to further state public records don’t go far enough

Virginia adds FOIA exemptions

Virginia’s General Assembly added new exemptions and language to the state’s Freedom of Information Act on July 1, making information more difficult to obtain, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

The Virginia Freedom of Information Advisory Council said of the 16 bills passed in the 2013 legislative session, four add new exemptions and 12 amend existing provisions.

The new exemptions effective until July 1, 2014, include:

  • An exemption allowing hospitals and nursing homes regulated by the Virginia Department of Health to withhold documents about disaster recovery and evacuation plans until an evaluation of the plans’ effectiveness after a disaster occurs
  • An exemption allowing parties giving trade secrets to the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality to keep their secrets safe by following a set of procedures
  • An exemption allowing airports to withhold documents related to their funding if releasing them would financially harm the airport
  • An exemption allowing the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Services Council to withhold records about training state prosecutors and law enforcement personnel that could compromise confidential strategies, methods or procedures

The Virginia Freedom of Information Advisory Council offers a full legislative update reviewing the changes.

Michigan columnist says attempts to further state’s public records law don’t go far enough

Representatives in Michigan have proposed legislation to make the state’s public records more easily attainable and create an administration hearing panel for records disputes. But a political columnist for MLive.com says the proposed measures to do not go far enough.

According to a July 8 post, columnist Matthew Davis said steps toward more transparency in the FOIA statute (see previous blog post) are headed in the right direction, but need more teeth to keep government in line.

Davis argues the act should require government agencies to pay for citizens’ time, efforts and attorneys fees for disclosure disputes when the government loses its case. He also thinks exemptions in the act should be limited to protecting information that is “truly sensitive” or could directly disrupt government operation. Read his column

Kara Hackett is SPJ’s Pulliam/Kilgore Freedom of Information intern, a freelance writer and a free press enthusiast. Contact her at khackett@spj.org or on Twitter: @KaraHackett.

Happy FOI-th of July!

This Independence Day marks the 47th anniversary of the Freedom of Information Act being signed into federal law, establishing our right to open records and meetings.

FOIA puts power in the hands of the people, ensuring us the information we need to participate in democratic decisions and, when necessary, hold our government accountable.

As Betsy Cushman, president of the League of Women Voters, notes in a July 2 editorial, a Pew Research Center poll shows only 26 percent of Americans surveyed feel they can trust Washington “almost always or most of the time”—among the lowest ratings since the FOIA was established.

But let’s not look at that other 74 percent in fear. Let’s allow our distrust to inspire a healthy skepticism in an age shrouded by secrecy. As citizens are monitored by mass surveillance and reporters are subject to grand scale subpoenas, we need the Freedom of Information Act to uphold the system of checks and balances our Founding Fathers established.

About thirteen years after Thomas Jefferson penned the Declaration of Independence in 1776, he wrote: “Whenever the people are well informed, they can be trusted with their own government; that whenever things get so far wrong as to attract their notice, they may be relied on to set them to rights.”

Celebrate FOIA’s 47th year by exercising your right to know and knowing your rights. Here are some FOI resources from SPJ.

Kara Hackett is SPJ’s Pulliam/Kilgore Freedom of Information intern, a freelance writer and a free press enthusiast. Contact her at khackett@spj.org or on Twitter: @KaraHackett.

Pittsburgh Catholic diocese sues feds for ‘patently uncooperative’ response to FOIA request

Several months after the Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh filed a freedom of information request with the federal government to learn how mandatory contraceptive coverage became part of the new federal health-care plan, the government said it would need five years and $1.8 million dollars to meet the request.

Now the diocese is suing the government for being “patently uncooperative” and violating the Freedom of Information Act, which requires government officials provide public information quickly and at a reasonable cost, according to the  Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Diocese attorney Paul “Mickey” Pohl filed the lawsuit July 1 claiming the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention intentionally created illegal barriers to bar the diocese from public information about the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010.

“Just because it’s a politically sensitive issue, the people at HHS shouldn’t decide they’re above the law and try to stonewall the provision of material requested under the Freedom of Information Act,” Pohl told the Post-Gazette.

His lawsuit alleges that since he filed his FOI request in September, government officials have denied parts of his request and refused to meet with him personally to help him clarify or streamline it, according to the Associated Press. Even when officials allegedly lowered the charge to about $25,000, they limited the information they were willing to provide and said some of the information would still take three years to collect.

Pohl, who represents the Diocese in their challenge to the health-care plan, originally requested 11 items. According to the Post-Gazette, they include:

  • Communications in advance of the issuance of the rules and religious employer exemptions
  • Documents regarding women’s preventative health care
  • Documents regarding other exemptions or waivers from the act’s requirements
  • Documents regarding the one-year safe harbor from the act’s requirements
  • Information regarding the role of the Institute of Medicine — a nongovernmental group that helped develop the guidelines for preventive care that ultimately included all federally approved contraceptives

Pohl told the Post-Gazette the request aimed at revealing whether Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius was heavily lobbied by representatives of pharmaceutical companies who hoped to benefit financially from the contraceptive coverage.

“We think there has been a wide variety of groups trying to influence the administration to keep the sterilization, contraception and abortion pill parts of the mandate, and we’re trying to find out what the communication has been back and forth to HHS, and the reason HHS is fighting religious organizations so hard not to change the preventative care mandate,” Pohl told the Post-Gazette. “We want to know who’s been lobbying the secretary of Health and Human Services to influence this decision.”

The 2010 federal health care overhaul takes full effect next year, and the government has yet to disclose whether the diocese will be exempt from providing employee insurance coverage for contraception, the AP said.

Kara Hackett is SPJ’s Pulliam/Kilgore Freedom of Information intern, a freelance writer and a free press enthusiast. Contact her at khackett@spj.org or on Twitter: @KaraHackett.

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