How to submit a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request
FOIA requests to the
U.S. Department of Energy Carlsbad Field Office (CBFO) may be
submitted by request form, letter, fax, or e-mail. You may contact
CBFO at the following address:
Freedom of Information Act/Privacy Act Public Liaison
U.S. Department of Energy
Carlsbad Field Office
P.O. Box 3090
4021 National Parks Highway
Carlsbad, New Mexico
Fax: (575) 234-7019
FOIA requests may be mailed, faxed, or e-mailed to the Freedom of Information Act/Privacy Act Public Liaison contact information above, or submitted electronically using the Electronic FOIA Request Form. Clearly mark the envelope, fax, or e-mail “Freedom of Information Act request.” Describe the records you are requesting as completely and accurately as possible, and provide your name, address, telephone number, and e-mail address (optional). Communications between the requester and the CBFO FOIA contact person may be necessary to clarify a request and expedite processing time.
Processing fees may be
chargeable in accordance with provisions of the FOIA. If a request
will result in fees of less than $15.00, no fee will be assessed.
Certain categories of request are exempt from fees. If you wish to
request a fee waiver, please do so in your initial request letter.
This will save time in the FOIA process.
Fee Waiver or reduction. The FOIA, as strengthened by
the 1974 FOIA amendments, authorizes waiver of fees when it is
determined that such action is “in the public interest because
furnishing the information can be considered as primarily benefiting
the general public.” As the Court of Appeals for the District of
Columbia Circuit Court emphasized, this provision was enacted to
ensure that the public would benefit from any expenditure of public
funds for the disclosure of public records. In January 1983 the
Department of Justice (DOJ) issued fee waiver guidelines that set
forth specific criteria, developed in numerous court decisions, for
federal agencies to apply in determining whether the public interest
warranted a waiver or reduction of fees.
The current fee waiver standard,
which was established by the Freedom of Information Reform Act of
1986, more specifically defines the term “public interest” by
providing that fees should be waived or reduced if disclosure of the
information is in the public interest because it is likely to
contribute significantly to public understanding of the operations
or activities of the government and is not primarily in the
commercial interest to the requester. In accordance with this
provision, the DOJ issued revised fee waiver policy guidance on
April 1, 1987, which superseded its l983 substantive fee waiver
guidance, as well as that issued in 1986. The DOJ advised agencies
of six analytical factors to be considered in applying this
statutory fee waiver standard:
- The subject matter of the requested records, in the context of the request, must specifically concern identifiable operations or activities of the government. In most cases, records possessed by a federal agency will meet this threshold. The records must be sought for their informative value with respect to specifically identified government operations or activities.
- In order for the disclosure to be likely to contribute to an understanding of specific government operations or activities, the disclosable portions of the requested information must be meaningfully informative in relation to the subject matter of the request. Requests for information that is already in the public domain, either in a duplicative or a substantially identical form, may not warrant a fee waiver because the disclosure would not be likely to contribute to an understanding of government operations or activities when nothing new would be added to the public’s understanding.
- The disclosure must contribute to the understanding of the public at large, as opposed to the individual understanding of the requester or a narrow segment of interested persons. As the proper focus must be on the benefit derived by the public, any personal benefit to be derived by the requester or the requester’s particular financial situation are not factors entitling the requester to a fee waiver. It is well settled that indigence alone, without a showing of a public benefit, is insufficient to warrant a fee waiver. The requirement that a requester demonstrate a contribution to the understanding of the public at large is not satisfied simply because a fee waiver request is made by a library or other record repository, or by a requester who intends merely to disseminate the information to such an institution. Requests that make no showing of how the information would be disseminated, rather than through passively making it available to anyone who might seek access to it, do not meet the burden of demonstrating with particularity that the information will be communicated to the public.
- The disclosure must contribute significantly to public understanding of government operations or activities. To warrant a waiver of reduction of fees, the public’s understanding of the subject matter in question, as compared to the requester’s commercial interests, must be likely to be enhanced by the disclosure to a significant extent.
- The FOIA Public Liaison must determine, as a threshold matter, whether the request involves any commercial interests of the requester that would be furthered by the disclosure. A commercial interest is one that furthers a commercial, trade, or profit interest, as those terms are commonly understood. However, not only profit-making corporations, but also individuals or other organizations, may have a commercial interest to be furthered by the disclosure, depending upon the circumstances involved. The FOIA Public Liaison may properly consider the requester’s identity and the circumstances surrounding the request and draw reasonable inferences regarding the existence of a commercial interest.
- The FOIA Public Liaison must balance the requester’s commercial interest against the identified public interest in disclosure and determine which interest is primary. A fee waiver or reduction must be granted when the public interest in disclosure is greater.
For a full description of fee
categories and qualifications for fee waivers, see DOE’s
Title 10, Code of Federal Regulations (Section 1004.9)