The FOIA generally requires that requesters pay fees for processing their requests. In accordance with 5 U.S.C 552(a)(4)(A)(iv), an agency is required to furnish records without charge or at reduced charges 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 disclosure is not primarily in the commercial interest of the requester.
This fee waiver provision thus sets forth two basic prerequisites, both of which must be satisfied before fees will be waived or reduced. First, the requester must establish that disclosure of the requested information is in the public interest because it is likely to contribute significantly to public understanding of the operations or activities of the Government. Second, it must be established that disclosure of the information is not primarily in the commercial interest of the requester. Only when both prerequisites are satisfied will the FOI Officer have authority to waive or reduce FOIA fees. When one or both of these requirements is not satisfied, a fee waiver is not warranted.
DOE has implemented this statutory standard for fee waivers or reduced fees in its FOIA regulation found at 10 CFR 1004.9(a). The regulation sets forth the following six factors that are considered by the agency in applying the criteria:
- The subject of the request: Whether the subject of the requested records concerns "the operations or activities of the government;"
- The informative value of the information to be disclosed: Whether the disclosure is "likely to contribute " to an understanding of government operations or activities. Provide your views as to whether the substantive content of the records will be informative and the meaningfulness of the information contained in said records;
- The contribution to an understanding by the general public of the subject likely to result from disclosure: Describe your position with your organization, your expertise in the subject matter of the requested information, your ability and/or qualifications to extract, synthesize and effectively convey the information, and the specific method which will be utilized by you or your organization to disseminate the information to the general public;
- The significance of the contribution to public understanding: Whether the disclosure is likely to contribute "significantly" to public understanding of government operations or activities. Identify what you believe will be the impact and precise nature of the contribution which will likely result from the release of the documents requested;
- The existence and magnitude of a commercial interest: Whether the requester has a commercial interest that would be furthered by the requested disclosure; and,
- The primary interest in disclosure: Whether the magnitude of the identified commercial interest of the requester is sufficiently large, in comparison with the public interest in disclosure, that disclosure is "primarily in the commercial interest of the requester".
If you desire to pursue fee waiver/reduction, provide your comments and/or views addressing the above factors and we will inform you of our decision. Your request will be held in abeyance until we receive further communication from you on this issue.
If you have any questions regarding fees for a request submitted to the ISC, please contact the FOIA Officer handling your request at one of the following locations:
ISC Chicago location: Miriam Bartos, (630) 252-2041
ISC Oak Ridge location: Linda Chapman, (865) 576-2129