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Enviros Win Case That May Support Judicial Review Of Data Quality Act Petitions
The American Canoe Association and the Sierra Club recently won a case in the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit that suggests courts can review Data Quality Act petitions on "informational injury" grounds.

The case, American Canoe Association et al. v. City of Lousisa Water & Sewer Commission et al., holds that the two Enviro NGOs have standing to sue municipal water treatment facilities under the federal Clean Water Act for allegedly failing to comply with the monitoring and reporting requirements of their water pollution permit. The trial court dismissed on the grounds that the plaintiffs had not claimed an injury from the alleged permit violations that was cognizable in a federal courts. The Court of appeals reversed and held that the plaintiffs did claim an injury sufficient for federal court jurisdiction because they alleged that the defendants had failed to provide the public with monitoring information that Congress required to be made public in a federal statute, the Clean Water Act. In other words, if a federal law gives the public a right to a certain type of information, then the public can enforce that right in federal court.

Winston is no Legal Beagle, but he thinks the same rationale can be applied to support judicial review of Data Quality Act petitions. The Data Quality Act is a federal law that requires most federal agencies to meet specified quality standards when they disseminate information to the public. The Act also requires most federal agencies to establish administrative processes allowing "affected persons" to request correction of information that they believe does not meet the quality standards. If an agency takes final action denying a request for correction, then the petitioner is "injured" because, according to her, the agency has not complied with a federal law giving her a right to a certain type of information. If federal courts have jurisdiction to review this alleged informational injury under the Clean Water Act, then Winston does not understand why they don't also have jurisdiction to review it under the Data Quality Act.

Some Enviro NGOs have incorrectly opposed and protested the Data Quality Act as nothing more than an industry tool to impede federal regulation necessary to protect the public. Winston thinks it would be ironic if Enviro NGOs are responsible for setting the precedent for judicial review of Data Quality Act petitions. But then, Winston is easily amused.

  • Click for Sixth Circuit informational injury decision.

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