Interior Dept’s Proposed Changes to FOIA Regulations

>>> When the Interior Dept proposed changes to its FOIA regulations on December 28, 2018, it did so in the typical way that specifies a paragraph, such as §2.17(c)(1)(iii), then notes which words to strike and/or which words to add. Here’s an actual example: “4. Amend § 2.4 by: a. In paragraph (a), after the words “a particular” adding the words “bureau or a particular”; after the words “that particular” adding the words “bureau or particular”. At the end of the paragraph adding the words “and will not be forwarded to another bureau or component”.”

This requires flipping back and forth between the proposed changes and the current regulations, while mentally making the changes. To make this much easier, I’m presenting the proposed changes in situ. Below are the relevant portions of Interior’s current FOIA regs, with proposed added language in bold and proposed deletions in strikethrough. I’m presenting only the portions of the regulations that will be changed, and occasionally some surrounding language for context. To see the full regulations as they currently stand, click here.

I’ll post my thoughts on these changes in a separate article soon.

 

Proposed Changes to the Interior Department’s FOIA Regulations

§2.2   What kinds of records are not covered by the regulations in subparts A through I of this part?

Subparts A through I of this part do not apply to records that fall under the law enforcement exclusions in 5 U.S.C. 552(c)(1)-(3). These exclusions may be used only in the limited circumstances delineated by the statute and require both prior approval from the Office of the Solicitor Deputy Chief FOIA Officer and the recording of their use and approval process.

 

§2.3   Where should you send a FOIA request?

(a) The Department does not have a central location for submitting FOIA requests and it does not maintain a central index or database of records in its possession. Instead, the Department’s records are decentralized and maintained by various bureaus and offices throughout the country.

(b) To make a request for Department records, you must write directly to the bureau that you believe maintains those records. by utilizing the electronic portals listed on the Department’s FOIA website, https://www.doi.gov/foia, or utilizing physical addresses of the appropriate bureau FOIA Officer or other appropriate FOIA contact, located at   http://www.doi.gov/foia/contacts

(c) Address requests to the appropriate FOIA contact in the bureau that maintains the requested records. The Department’s FOIA Web site, https://www.doi.gov/foia, lists the physical and email addresses of each bureau’s FOIA Officer, along with other appropriate FOIA contacts at http://www.doi.gov/foia/contacts.

(d) (c) Questions about where to send a FOIA request should be directed to the bureau that manages the underlying program or to the appropriate FOIA Public Liaison FOIA Requester Center, as discussed in §2.66 of this part.

 

§2.4   Does where you send your request affect its processing?

(a) A request to a particular bureau or a particular bureau component (for example, a request addressed to a regional or field office) will be presumed to seek only records from that particular bureau or particular component and will not be forwarded to another bureau or component.

(b) If you seek records from an entire bureau, submit your request to the bureau FOIA Officer. The bureau FOIA Officer will forward it to the bureau component(s) that he or she believes has or are likely to have responsive records.

(c) If a request to a bureau states that it seeks records located at another specific component of the same bureau, the appropriate FOIA contact will forward the request to the other component.

(d) If a request to a bureau states that it seeks records from other unspecified components within the same bureau, the appropriate FOIA contact will send the request to the Bureau FOIA Officer. He or she will forward it to the components that the bureau FOIA Officer believes have or are likely to have responsive records.

(e) If your request is received by a bureau that believes it is not the appropriate bureau to process your request, the bureau that received your request will attempt to contact you (if possible, via telephone or email) to confirm that you deliberately sent your request to that bureau for processing. If you do not confirm this, the bureau will deem your request misdirected and route the misdirected request to the appropriate bureau to respond under the basic time limit outlined in §2.17.

(f) If a request to a bureau states that it seeks records from other unspecified bureaus, the bureau’s FOIA Officer may forward the request to those bureaus which he or she believes have or are likely to have responsive records. If the bureau FOIA Officer forwards the request, they will notify you in writing and provide the name of a contact in the other bureau(s). If it does not forward the request, the bureau will return it to you, advise you to submit the request directly to the other bureaus, notify you that it cannot comply with the request, and close the request.

 

§2.5   How should you describe the records you seek?

(a) You must reasonably describe the records sought. A reasonable description contains sufficient detail to enable bureau personnel familiar with the subject matter of the request to locate the records with a reasonable amount of effort and identify the discrete, identifiable agency activity, operation, or program in which you are interested.

(b) You should include as much detail as possible about the specific records or types of records that you are seeking. This will assist the bureau in identifying the requested records (for example, time frames involved or specific personnel who may have the requested records). For example, whenever possible, identify:

(1) The date, title or name, author, recipient, and subject of any particular records you seek;

(2) The office that created the records you seek;

(3) The timeframe for which you are seeking records; and

(4) Any other information that will assist the bureau in locating the records.

(c) The bureau’s FOIA Public Liaison FOIA Requester Center can assist you in formulating or reformulating a request in an effort to better identify the records you seek.

(d) If the bureau determines that your request does not reasonably describe the records sought, the bureau will inform you what additional information you need to provide in order to reasonably describe the records that you seek so the requested records can be located with a reasonable amount of effort. The bureau will also notify you that it will not be able to comply with your request unless the additional information it has requested is received from you in writing within 20 workdays after the bureau has requested it and that you may appeal its determination. If you receive this type of notification, you may wish to discuss it with the bureau’s designated FOIA contact or its FOIA Public Liaison (see §2.66 of this part). If the bureau does not receive your written response containing the additional information within 20 workdays after the bureau has requested it, the bureau will presume that you are no longer interested in the records and will close the file on the request.

(d) You must describe the records you seek sufficiently to enable a professional employee familiar with the subject to locate the documents with a reasonable effort. Extremely broad or vague requests or requests requiring research do not satisfy this requirement. The bureau will not honor a request that requires an unreasonably burdensome search or requires the bureau to locate, review, redact, or arrange for inspection of a vast quantity of material.

(e) If the bureau determines that your request does not reasonably describe the records sought, the bureau will return the request to you; notify you that it will not be able to comply with your request unless you sufficiently clarify your request, in writing, within 20 workdays; notify you that you may appeal its determination that your request does not reasonably describe the records sought; and inform you, when practicable, what additional information you need to provide in order to reasonably describe the records that you seek so the requested records can be located with a reasonable amount of effort. If you receive this type of notification, you may wish to discuss it with the bureau’s designated FOIA contact or FOIA Requester Center (see § 2.66 of this part). If the bureau does not receive your written response containing the additional information within 20 workdays after the bureau has requested it, the bureau will presume that you are no longer interested in the records and will close the file on the request.

 

§2.6   How will fee information affect the processing of your request?

(f) If you are required to pay a fee and it is later determined on appeal that you were entitled to a full or partial fee waiver or a different fee category placement, you will receive an appropriate refund.

 

§2.12   What should you know about how bureaus process requests?

(d) If a bureau receives a request for records in its possession that it did not create or that another bureau or a Federal agency is substantially concerned with, it may undertake consultations and/or referrals as described in §2.13.

(d) If a bureau receives a request for records in its possession that primarily concern another bureau or a Federal Government agency that is subject to FOIA, it may undertake consultations and/or referrals as described in § 2.13.

 

§2.13   How do consultations and referrals work?

(a) Consultations and referrals can occur within the Department or outside the Department.

(1) Paragraphs (b) and (c) of this section addresses consultations and referrals that occur within the Department when the bureau has responsive records.

(2) Paragraphs (d) through (g) of this section address consultations and referrals that occur outside the Department when the bureau has responsive records.

(3) Paragraph (h) of this section addresses what happens when the bureau has no responsive records but believes responsive records may be in the possession of a Federal agency outside the Department.

(a) When a bureau (other than the Office of Inspector General) locates responsive records that primarily concern another bureau or Federal Government agency that is subject to FOIA, the bureau will determine whether that bureau or agency would be better able to determine whether the record is exempt from disclosure.

(b) If a bureau (other than the Office of Inspector General) receives a request for records in its possession that another bureau created or is substantially concerned with, it will either:

(1) Consult with the other bureau before deciding whether to release or withhold the records; or

(2) Refer the request, along with the records, to that other bureau for direct response.

(b) If the bureau processing the request believes that another bureau or agency would be better able to determine whether the record is exempt from disclosure, the bureau will contact that bureau or agency to determine whether it should refer the record to that bureau or agency or consult with that bureau or agency.

(1) If the bureau processing the request refers a record to another bureau or agency, that other bureau or agency will respond to you directly about that record. If the bureau processing the request consults with another bureau or agency, the bureau processing the request will respond to you directly.

(2) If the bureau receives a request for records that another agency has classified under any applicable executive order concerning record classification, it must refer the request to that agency for response.

(3) Whenever a bureau refers any part of the responsibility for responding to a request to another bureau or agency, it will document the referral; maintain a copy of the referred record; and notify you of the referral, including the name of the bureau or agency to which the record was referred and that bureau or agency’s FOIA contact information.

(4) If the disclosure of the identity of the agency to which the referral would be made could harm an interest protected by an applicable exemption, such as the exemption that protects ongoing law enforcement investigations, a referral would be inappropriate and the bureau will consult with the agency instead.

(c) The bureau that originally received the request will notify you of the referral in writing. When the bureau notifies you of the referral, it will tell you whether the referral was for part or all of your request and provide the name and contact information for the other bureau.

(c) When a bureau receives a referral, the bureau will assign the referral to the appropriate processing track (see § 2.15 of this part) and process it according to the date that the consulting or referring bureau or agency received your request (see § 2.14 of this part).

(d) If, while responding to a request, the bureau locates records that originated with another Federal agency, it usually will refer the request and any responsive records to that other agency for a release determination and direct response.

(d) Bureaus may establish written agreements with other bureaus or agencies to eliminate the need for consultations or referrals for particular types of records.

 

§2.14   In what order are responses usually made?

The bureau ordinarily will respond to requests according to their order of receipt within their processing track. The bureau may impose a monthly limit for processing records in response to your request in order to treat FOIA requesters equitably by responding to a greater number of FOIA requests each month.

 

§2.15   What is multitrack processing and how does it affect your request?

(c) The basic processing tracks are designated as follows:

(1) Simple: requests in this track will would generally take between one to five workdays to process;

(2) Normal: requests in this track will would generally take between six to twenty workdays to process;

(3) Complex: requests in this track will would generally take between twenty-one workdays and sixty workdays to process; or

(4) Exceptional/Voluminous Extraordinary: requests in this track involve very complex processing challenges, which may include a large number of potentially responsive records, and will would generally take over sixty workdays to process.

 

§2.16   What is the basic time limit frame for responding to a request?

(a) Ordinarily, the bureau has 20 workdays (including the date of receipt) to determine whether to comply with a request, but unusual circumstances may allow the bureau to take longer than 20 workdays (see §2.19 of this subpart).

(b) A consultation or referral under §2.13 of this part does not restart the statutory time limit frame for responding to a request.

 

§2.17   When does the basic time limit begin for misdirected FOIA requests? [Reserved]

The basic time limit for a misdirected FOIA request (see §2.4(e) of this part) begins no later than ten workdays after the request is first received by any component of the Department that is designated to receive FOIA requests.

 

§2.18   When can the bureau suspend the basic time limit frame?

(a) The basic time limit frame in §2.16 of this part may be temporarily suspended for the time it takes you to respond to one written communication from the bureau reasonably asking for clarifying information.

(b) The basic time limit frame in §2.16 may also repeatedly be temporarily suspended for the time it takes you to respond to written communications from the bureau that are necessary to clarify issues regarding fee assessment (see §2.51 of this part).

 

§2.19   When may the bureau extend the basic time limit?

(a) The bureau may extend the basic time limit frame, if unusual circumstances exist, by notifying you in writing of:

(1) The unusual circumstances involved; and

(2) The date by which it expects to complete processing the request.

(b) If the processing time will extend beyond a total of 30 workdays, the bureau will:

(1) Give you an opportunity to limit the scope of the request or agree to an alternative time period for processing; and

(2) Make available its the FOIA Public Liaison (see §2.66 of this part) to assist in resolving any disputes between you and the bureau, and notify you of your right to seek dispute resolution from the Office of Government Information Services (OGIS).

(c) If the bureau extends the time limit frame under this section and you do not receive a response in accordance with §2.16(a) in that time period, you may consider the request denied and file an appeal in accordance with the procedures in §2.59.

(d) Your refusal to reasonably modify the scope of a request or arrange an alternative time frame for processing a request after being given the opportunity to do so may be considered for litigation purposes as a factor when determining whether exceptional circumstances exist.

 

§2.20   When will expedited processing be provided and how will it affect your request?

(a) The bureau will provide expedited processing upon request if you demonstrate to the satisfaction of the bureau that there is a compelling need for the records. The following circumstances demonstrate a compelling need:

(1) Where Failure to expedite the request could reasonably be expected to pose an imminent threat to the life or physical safety of an individual; or

(2) Where There is an urgency to inform the public about an actual or alleged Federal Government activity and the request is made by a person primarily engaged in disseminating information.

(i) In most situations, a person primarily engaged in disseminating information will be a representative of the news media.

(ii) If you are not a full time member of the news media, to qualify for expedited processing here, you must establish that your main professional activity or occupation is information dissemination, although it need not be your sole occupation.

(iii) The requested information must be the type of information which has particular value that will be lost if not disseminated quickly; this ordinarily refers to a breaking news story of general public interest.

(iv) Information of historical interest only or information sought for litigation or commercial activities would not qualify, nor would a news media deadline unrelated to breaking news.

(b) If you seek expedited processing, you must submit a statement that:

(1) Explains in detail how all elements and subcomponents of your request meets each element of one or both of the criteria in paragraph (a) of this section; and

(2) Certifies that your explanation is true and correct to the best of your knowledge and belief.

(c) You may ask for expedited processing of your request by writing to the appropriate FOIA contact in the bureau that maintains the records requested any time before the bureau issues its final response to your request. Bureaus will consult with the Office of the Solicitor before granting expedited processing requests and will include in its response to you the name and title of the Office of the Solicitor or Office of General Counsel attorney consulted. When making a request for expedited processing of an administrative appeal, submit the request to the appropriate deciding official for FOIA appeals.

 

§2.21   How will the bureau respond to requests?

(a) When the bureau informs you of its decision to comply with a request by granting, partially granting, or denying the request, it will do so in writing and in accordance with the deadlines in subpart D of this part. The bureau’s written response will include a statement about the services offered by its the FOIA Public Liaison. The bureau’s written response will also include a statement about the services offered by OGIS, using standard language that can be found at: https://www.doi.gov/foia/news/guidance.”

 

§2.23   When will the bureau deny a request or procedural benefits?

(c) The bureau must consult with the Office of the Solicitor before it denies a fee waiver request or withholds all or part of a requested record unless the Office of the Solicitor has expressly preapproved such a withholding.

 

§2.24   How will the bureau deny requests?

(a) The bureau must notify you in writing of any denial of your request.

(b) The denial notification must include:

(1) The name and title or position of the person responsible for the denial, along with an office phone number or email address;

(2) A statement of the reasons for the denial;

(3) A reference to any FOIA exemption applied by the bureau to withhold records in full or in part, along with a statement that the bureau reasonably foresees that disclosure would harm an interest protected by the applied exemption(s) or disclosure is prohibited by law;

(4) An estimate of the volume of any records withheld in full or in part (for example, by providing the number of pages or some other reasonable form of estimation), unless the bureau notes that it does not have or could not locate responsive records or that including an estimate would harm an interest protected by an exemption used to withhold the records and the bureau explains this harm to you;

(5) The name and title of the Office of the Solicitor or Office of General Counsel attorney consulted (if the bureau is denying a fee waiver request or withholding all or part of a requested record unless the Office of the Solicitor has expressly preapproved such a withholding); and

(6) A statement that the denial may be appealed under subpart H of this part and a description of the procedures in subpart H of this part.

 

§2.27   When will the bureau notify a submitter of a request for their possibly confidential information?

(a) Except as outlined in §2.29 of this subpart, a bureau must exercise due diligence to promptly notify a submitter in writing when it receives a FOIA request if:

(1) The requested information has been designated by the submitter as confidential information under §2.26(a) of this subpart; or

(2) The requested information has not been designated as confidential information by the submitter under §2.26(a) of this subpart, but the bureau identifies it as possibly confidential information.

(b) If a voluminous number of submitters are involved, the bureau may publish a notice in a manner reasonably calculated to reach the attention of the submitters (for example, in newspapers or newsletters, the bureau’s Web site, or the Federal Register) instead of providing a written notice to each submitter.

 

§2.28   What information will the bureau include when it notifies a submitter of a request for their possibly confidential information?

A notice to a submitter must include:

(d) A time limit frame for responding to the bureau—no less than 10 workdays from receipt or publication of the notice (as set forth in §2.27(b) of this subpart)—to object to the release and to explain the basis for the objection;

 

§2.29   When will the bureau not notify a submitter of a request for their possibly confidential information?

The notice requirements of §2.28 of this subpart will not apply if:

(a) The information has been lawfully published or officially made available to the public; or

(b) Disclosure of the information is required or prohibited by a statute other than the FOIA or by a regulation (other than this part) issued in accordance with the requirements of Executive Order 12600. ; or

(c) The bureau has excised due diligence to notify the submitter, but its efforts were unsuccessful.

 

§2.37   What general principles govern fees?

(f) If the bureau does not comply with any time limit frame in the FOIA:

(1) Except as provided in paragraph (f)(2) of this section, the bureau cannot assess any search fees (or, if you are in the fee category of a representative of the news media or an educational and noncommercial scientific institution, duplication fees).

(2)(i) If the bureau has determined that unusual circumstances apply (as the term is defined in §2.70) and the bureau provided you a timely written notice to extend the basic time limit frame in accordance with §2.19, the noncompliance is excused for an additional 10 workdays.

(ii) If the bureau has determined that unusual circumstances apply and more than 5,000 pages are necessary to respond to the request, the noncompliance is excused if the bureau has provided you a timely written notice in accordance with §2.19 and has discussed with you via written mail, email, or telephone (or made not less than 3 good-faith attempts to do so) how you could effectively limit the scope of the request.

(iii) If a court has determined that exceptional circumstances exist (as that term is defined in §2.70), the noncompliance is excused for the length of time provided by the court order.

(g) If the fee for processing your request is less than $50, you will not be charged unless multiple requests are aggregated under §2.54 of this subpart to an amount that is $50 or more.

(h) If you fail to pay any FOIA-related fee within 30 calendar days of the date of billing, the processing of any new or ongoing requests and/or appeals from you shall ordinarily be suspended.

(i) If you would like to reformulate your request so it will meet your needs at a lower cost, you may wish to seek assistance from the bureau’s designated FOIA contact or its FOIA Public Liaison FOIA Requester Center (see §2.66 of this part).

 

§2.45   When will the bureau waive fees?

(a) The bureau will release records responsive to a request without charge (in other words, it will give you a full fee waiver) or at a reduced charge (in other words, it will give you a partial fee waiver, as discussed further in paragraph (b) of this section) if the bureau determines, based on all available information considering the information you have provided and verifying it as appropriate, that you have demonstrated (by addressing and meeting each of the criteria listed in §2.48 of this subpart) that disclosing the information is:

(1) In the public interest because it is likely to contribute significantly to public understanding of government operations or activities, and

(2) Not primarily in your commercial interest.

(f) The bureau must not make value judgments about whether the information at issue is “important” enough to be made public; it is not the bureau’s role to attempt to determine the level of public interest in requested information.

 

§2.47   How will the bureau notify you if it denies your fee waiver request?

If the bureau denies your request for a fee waiver, it will notify you, in writing, of the following:

(d) Your right to appeal the denial under subpart H of this part and a description of the requirements set forth therein, within 30 90 workdays from the date of the fee waiver denial letter; and

 

§2.48   How will the bureau evaluate your fee waiver request?

(a) In deciding whether your fee waiver request meets the requirements of §2.45(a)(1) of this subpart, the bureau will consider the criteria listed in paragraphs (a)(1) through (a)(4) of this section. You must address and meet each of these criteria in order to demonstrate that you are entitled to a fee waiver.

(1) How the records concern the operations or activities of the Federal government. The subject of the request must concern discrete, identifiable agency activities, operations, or programs with a connection that is direct and clear, not remote or attenuated.

(2) How disclosure is likely to contribute significantly to public understanding of those operations or activities, including:

(i) How the contents of the records are meaningfully informative—the disclosure of information that already is in the public domain, in either the same or a substantially identical form, would not be meaningfully informative if nothing new would be added to the public’s understanding;

(ii) The logical connection between the content of the records and the operations or activities;

(iii) How disclosure will contribute to the understanding of a reasonably broad audience of persons interested in the subject, as opposed to your individual understanding;

(iv) Your expertise in the subject area as well as your identity, vocation, qualifications, and expertise regarding the requested information and information that explains how you your plan to disclose the information in a manner that will be informative to the understanding of a reasonably broad audience of persons interested in the subject, as opposed to furthering your individual understanding

(v) Your ability and intent to disseminate the information to a reasonably broad audience of persons interested in the subject (for example, how and to whom do you intend to disseminate the information). If we have categorized you as a representative of the news media under §2.38, we will presume you have this ability and intent.

(3) How disclosure is likely to significantly contribute to the understanding of a reasonably broad audience of persons interested in the subject, as opposed to your individual understanding, including:

(i) Whether the information being requested is new;

(ii) (vi) Whether the information would confirm or clarify data that has been released previously; and

(iii) How disclosure will increase the level of public understanding of the operations or activities of the Department or a bureau that existed prior to disclosure; and

(iv) Whether the information is already publicly available. If the Government previously has published the information you are seeking or it is routinely available to the public in a library, reading room, through the Internet, or as part of the administrative record for a particular issue, it is less likely that there will be a significant contribution from release.

(4) (vii) How the public’s understanding of the subject in question will be enhanced to a significant extent by the disclosure.

(b) In deciding whether the fee waiver meets the requirements in §2.45(a)(2) of this subpart, the bureau will consider any commercial interest of yours that would be furthered by the requested disclosure. To determine whether disclosure of the requested information is primarily in your commercial interest, the bureau will consider:

(1) Whether the requested disclosure would further any commercial interest of yours.

(2) If you have a commercial interest, the bureau must determine whether that is the primary interest furthered by the request. A waiver or reduction of fees is justified when the requirements of paragraph (a) are satisfied and any commercial interest is not the primary interest furthered by the request. Bureaus ordinarily will presume that, when a news media requester has satisfied paragraph (a) above, the request is not primarily in the commercial interest of the requester.

(1) (3) You are encouraged to provide explanatory information regarding this consideration.

(2) (4) The bureau will not find that disclosing the requested information will be primarily in your commercial interest where the public interest is greater than any identified commercial interest in disclosure.

(3) (5) If you do have a commercial interest that would be furthered by disclosure, explain how the public interest in disclosure would be greater than any commercial interest you or your organization may have in the documents.

(i) Your identity, vocation, and intended use of the requested records are all factors to be considered in determining whether disclosure would be primarily in your commercial interest.

(ii) If you are a representative of a news media organization seeking information as part of the news gathering process, we will ordinarily presume that the public interest outweighs your commercial interest. Disclosure to data brokers or others who merely compile and market government information for direct economic return will not be presumed to primarily serve the public interest.

(iii) If you represent a business/corporation/association or you are an attorney representing such an organization, we will presume that your commercial interest outweighs the public interest unless you demonstrate otherwise.

 

§2.49   When will you be notified of anticipated fees?

(a) The bureau will notify you under this section unless:

(1) The anticipated fee is less than $50 (see §2.37(g) of this subpart).

(2) You have been granted a full fee waiver; or

(3) Your request does not reasonably describe the records sought and/or does not resolve all issues regarding the payment of processing fees; or

(3) (4) You have previously already agreed to pay all the fees associated with the request.

(e) If you wish to modify your request in an effort to reduce fees, the bureau’s FOIA Public Liaison FOIA Requester Center can assist you.

 

§2.51   What if the bureau needs clarification about fee issues?

(b) If the bureau asks you to provide clarification, the 20-workday statutory time limit frame for the bureau to respond to the request is temporarily suspended.

(1) If the bureau receives a written response within 20 workdays after the bureau has requested the additional clarification, the 20-workday statutory time limit frame for processing the request will resume (see §2.16 of this part).

(2) If you still have not provided sufficient information to resolve the fee issue, the bureau may ask you again to provide additional clarification and notify you that it will not be able to comply with your FOIA request unless you provide the additional information requested within 20 workdays after the bureau has requested the additional clarification.

(3) If the bureau asks you again for additional clarification, the statutory time limit frame for response will be temporarily suspended again and will resume again if the bureau receives a written response from you within 20 workdays after the bureau has requested the additional clarification.

 

§2.54   When will the bureau combine or aggregate requests?

(a) The bureau may aggregate requests and charge fees accordingly when it reasonably believes that you, or a group of requesters acting in concert with you, are attempting to avoid fees by dividing a single request into a series of requests on a single subject or related subjects.

(1) The bureau may presume that multiple requests of this type made within a 30-day period have been made to avoid fees.

(2) The bureau may aggregate requests separated by a longer period only where there is a reasonable basis for determining that aggregation is warranted in view of all the circumstances involved.

(b) The bureau will not aggregate multiple requests involving unrelated matters.

 

§2.57   When may you file an appeal?

(a) You may file an appeal when:

(7) The bureau did not make a decision within the time limits frames in §2.16 or, if applicable, §2.18; or

(c) Before filing an appeal, you may wish to communicate with the contact person listed in the FOIA response, the bureau’s FOIA Officer, and/or the FOIA Public Liaison to see if the issue can be resolved informally. However, appeals must be received by the FOIA Appeals Officer within the time limits frames in §2.58 of this subpart or they will not be processed.

 

§2.58   How long do you have to file an appeal?

(c) Appeals covered by §2.57(a)(7) of this subpart may be filed any time after the time limit frame for responding to the request has passed.

 

§2.59   How do you file an appeal?

(f) The Department will reject an appeal that does not attach all correspondence required by paragraph (b)(1) of this section, unless the FOIA Appeals Officer determines, in his or her sole discretion, that good cause exists to accept the defective appeal. The time limits frames for responding to an appeal will not begin to run until the correspondence is received.

 

§2.62   When can you expect a decision on your appeal?

(a) The basic time limit frame for responding to an appeal is 20 workdays after receipt of an appeal meeting the requirements of §2.59 of this subpart.

(b) If the Department is unable to reach a decision on your appeal within the given time limit frame for response, the appropriate deciding official for FOIA appeals will notify you of your statutory right to seek review in a United States District Court.

 

§2.66   What are public liaisons? What are FOIA Requester Centers and the FOIA Public Liaison?

(a) Each bureau has a FOIA Public Liaison who can assist requesters who have concerns about the service they received when seeking records or who are seeking assistance under §2.3(d) or §2.37(i) of this part.

(a) Employees at FOIA Requester Centers typically serve as your first point of contact for questions about how the FOIA works. Even before you make a request, employees at FOIA Requester Centers can assist you by: Identifying information that is already posted and available; informing you about the types of records maintained by the bureau; providing suggestions for formulating requests; describing the Department’s various processing tracks and the average processing times for the various tracks; and answering questions about expedited processing standards and the FOIA’s fee provisions. After you make a request, questions about its status can also be answered by employees at the applicable FOIA Requester Center.

(b) FOIA Public Liaisons report to the Department’s Chief FOIA Officer and you can raise concerns to them about the service you have received.

(b) If you need further information or assistance after contacting the applicable FOIA Requester Center, the FOIA Public Liaison reports to the Department’s Chief FOIA Officer and is responsible for assisting in reducing delays, increasing transparency and understanding of the status of requests, and resolving disputes between you and the agency (including notifying you of your right to seek dispute resolution services from OGIS).

(c) FOIA Public Liaisons are responsible for assisting in reducing delays, increasing transparency and understanding of the status of requests, and assisting in resolving disputes.

(c) If you need further information or assistance after contacting the applicable FOIA Requester Center and the FOIA Public Liaison, you may wish to seek dispute resolution services from OGIS.

(d) A list of the Department’s FOIA Public Liaisons is available at https://www.doi.gov/foia/servicecenters.

(d) Contact information for the FOIA Requester Centers and the FOIA Public Liaison is available at https://www.doi.gov/foia/foiacenters.

 

§2.70   What definitions apply to subparts A through I of this part?

For the purposes of subparts A through I of this part, the following definitions apply:

Educational institution means any school that operates a program of scholarly research. In order to fall within this category, you must show that the request is authorized by and made under the auspices of, a qualifying institution and that the records are not sought for a commercial use, but rather are sought to further scholarly research. Teachers (if they demonstrate how the requested records will further their teaching, scholarly research, or production of scholarly works) and students (if they demonstrate how the requested records will further their coursework or other school-sponsored activities) may also qualify as an educational institution for the purposes of this definition.

Multitrack processing means placing simple requests, requiring relatively minimal review, in one processing track and more voluminous and complex requests in one or more other tracks. Requests in each track are ordinarily processed on a first-in/first-out basis, but other factors, such as litigation, may affect the sequence and/or timing of processing.

Record means an agency record is any item, collection, or grouping of information that already is recorded, is reasonably encompassed by your request, and that is either created or obtained by an agency and is under agency possession and control at the time of the FOIA request, or is maintained by an entity under Government contract for the purposes of records management.

Representative of the news media means any person or entity that gathers information of potential interest to a segment of the public, uses its editorial skills to turn the raw materials into a distinct work, and distributes that work to an audience. Distributing copies of released records, electronically or otherwise, does not qualify as using editorial skills to turn the raw materials into a distinct work. The term news as used in this definition means information that is about current events or that would be of current interest to the public. Examples of news media entities are newspapers, television, Web sites, or radio stations broadcasting to the public at large, and publishers of periodicals (but only if such entities qualify as disseminators of news) who make their products available for purchase by or subscription by or free distribution to the general public. These examples are not all inclusive. As methods of news delivery evolve, alternative representatives of news media may come into being. A freelance journalist will qualify as a news-media entity if he or she can demonstrate a solid basis for expecting publication through that entity, whether or not the journalist is actually employed by that entity (for example, a publication contract would present a solid basis for such an expectation).

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