White Files Appeal to DEP on Right-to-Know Request

The state Department of Environmental Protection had denied his request to see air-quality test data for Cornerstone Care.

D-Cecil, has filed an appeal asking the state Department of Environmental Protection to reconsider his open records request for air-quality test data from the agency's investigation of odors at Cornerstone Care—a non-profit medical clinic in Burgettstown.

Cornerstone has been closed since May 25, when it was forced to evacuate the facility for a third time.

White said a letter, dated June 18, and signed by the DEP's open records officer, stated that the DEP's investigation concerning the odors at Cornerstone was "non-criminal" in nature and was exempted from the state’s Right to Know Law.

The law states he has 15 days in which to file an appeal of the DEP's decision to withhold the information, which he did on Monday, within the 15-day period the Right to Know law provides.

"The inexplicable move by DEP to withhold the Cornerstone testing data has only strengthened my belief that important information is being kept from the public, which is deeply disturbing," White said on Tuesday.

"If there is nothing to hide, why are DEP offiicals hiding the results? What could be more important than sharing data which could be used to help people from getting sick? The staff and patients of Cornerstone Care are don't have the luxury to 'just look away' from the truth, as the Corbett administration would suggest."

White said the Right to Know Law does not say the DEP has to withhold the information, but, "in fact it clearly states the exact opposite."

Section 506(c) provides that: An agency may exercise its discretion to make any otherwise exempt record accessible for inspection and copying under this chapter; if all of the following apply:

  • Disclosure of the record is not prohibited under federal or state law or regulation judicial order or decree.
  • The record is not protected by a privilege.
  • The agency head determines that the public interest favoring access outweighs any individual, agency or public interest that may favor restriction of access.

"There is nothing stopping DEP from releasing the data if they determine that it's in the public interest to do so, and if Cornerstone isn't the textbook example of a situation where it would be in the public's best interest to know the facts, I don't know what is," White said. "It also makes you wonder what the DEP's interest is that would outweigh the public's interest. Since DEP won't comment, we don't have any answers—just more questions."

The legislator and state , D-Canonsburg, received a second analysis summary of the test results, but that the analysis has "opened the door to even more unanswered questions about what the DEP knows and what other information may be unearthed through the release of the entire test results," White said in a release. After receiving that information, White filed the right-to-know request.


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