Today the Energy & Environment Legal Institute (E&E Legal) filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), to force the Agency to begin turning over documents it promised to release under a May 2016 FOIA request. E&E Legal is a 501(c)(3) organization engaged in strategic litigation that “seeks to correct onerous federal and state policies that hinder the economy, increase the cost of energy, eliminate jobs, and do little or nothing to improve the environment.”
The request seeks public records discussing and analyzing the work of the Ramazzini Institute, an organization in Italy that U.S. federal agencies have used to provide them numerous assessments and whose output has become the subject of controversy in recent years. The requested records specifically relate to the Institute’s analytical and toxicological methods and whether Ramazzini’s studies were being considered for use by the EPA.
Although E&E Legal twice narrowed its request to facilitate the promised release of records, EPA has provided nothing, well over three months after promising that the emails and other materials would be forthcoming.
Ramazzini Institute has a growing record of controversy. Examples include:
- Ramazzini claims regarding aspartame caused a health panic before the group was slapped down by the Food and Drug Administration, European Food Safety Authority and other reviewers.
- In 2013, EPA suspended its own assessments that used Ramazzini data.
- Additionally, Ramazzini has been the subject of a congressional oversight letter to National Toxicology Program’s director and the EPA expressing concerns about the agencies’ continued use, sometimes undisclosed, of questionable research from Ramazzini.
Ramazzini has strong, and in fact by far the most dominant, connections to a document called International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) Monograph 112, which declared an active ingredient in the popular herbicide glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic” (the same category it uses for red meat).
That 2015 document was produced by IARC, a group singularly dedicated to claiming that everything it casts its gaze to is “probably carcinogenic to humans” — so far, it has only claimed otherwise once in its review of nearly 1,000 substances — even though it has been forced to walk such claims back.
In late April, EPA posted a report, stamped “FINAL”, concluding that glyphosate was not likely carcinogenic, then quickly pulled it offline the next business day. This strange move drew great public scrutiny and, months later, EPA affirmed the conclusion. What transpired behind this odd series of events is the subject of E&E Legal’s request at issue in the suit filed today.
Eight Vol. 112 authors are Ramazzini fellows. The Institute has been lavishly underwritten by the U.S. taxpayer (it has received more than $310 million directly from U.S. government agencies, including including $250 million in funding from one of these federal agencies which is headed by a Ramazzini fellow).
Ramazzini staff, fellow and other relationships raise questions about its role in the movement seeking to reverse accepted research conclusions on glyphosate, long a target of the international environmental movement for its popularity given it kills weeds without killing crops.
E&E Legal notes with interest that earlier in the week the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform sent a request for information to the HHS about its funding of IARC. The extensive overlap between EPA, Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) agencies, and Ramazzini is relevant to today’s lawsuit — E&E Legal has been forced to sue HHS recently as well, for improperly withholding IARC- and glyphosate-related documents under FOIA. HHS agencies have even claimed that federal employees working at HHS on these matters are really working for international bodies when they don’t want to release such records.