Q. Can I request a copy of the construction plans and specifications for a project that is currently underway on federal land even though they were prepared by a private firm?
A. If the construction project is a nuclear power plant or a prison, probably not. In addition to security issues that might prevent release, the records you seek might contain sensitive business information whose release could harm the competitive interests of the private firm. If so, the federal agency that possesses the records would need to notify the private firm of your request and to provide it with an opportunity to object to disclosure. This so-called "submitter notice" process is set forth in a Presidential Executive Order that was issued in 1987.