The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 7-2 Thursday that draft rule-making documents were protected from disclosure under a Freedom of Information Act request by the Sierra Club.
The high court ruled that two “draft biological opinions” on threats to endangered species were protected from disclosure by FOIA’s deliberative process privilege.
Justice Amy Coney Barrett wrote the majority opinion. It is her first merits opinion for the court, SCOTUSblog reports.
The Sierra Club had sought the documents in connection with a proposed regulation on “cooling water intake structures,” which draw water to cool industrial equipment. The Environmental Protection Agency, which proposed the regulation, had to seek input on whether the regulation would harm threatened or endangered species from two other government agencies—the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service.
The Sierra Club received thousands of documents as a result of its information request but not the services’ draft opinions on endangered species that could be harmed by the water-intake rule as proposed in 2013. The draft opinions had been shelved, more discussions were held, and the EPA devised a different rule. The Sierra Club had argued that the draft opinions were actually final opinions because they were the final opinions on the 2013 rule.
During oral arguments in November…”