FOIA Advisor

FOIA News (2019)

FOIA News: Army waives $300k FOIA fee

FOIA News (2019)Allan BlutsteinComment

Army Backs Down on FOIA, Waives $300K Fee for PFAS Contamination Data

Envtl. Working Group Press Release, Mar. 25. 2019

Under pressure from Environmental Working Group and Capitol Hill lawmakers, the Army today agreed to waive its fee of almost $300,000 to process a public records request seeking information about fluorinated chemical contamination at military installations.

In November, EWG filed a Freedom of Information Act request for data to determine the severity of PFAS contamination of drinking water and groundwater at hundreds of bases nationwide. EWG requested a fee waiver, which the Associated Press reported is routinely given to news outlets and nonprofit groups seeking information in the public interest.

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FOIA News: FCC agrees to pay $43k for FOIA loss

FOIA News (2019)Allan BlutsteinComment

FCC to Cough Up $43,000 Settlement for Refusing to Turn Over Fake Comment Records

While not admitting to doing anything wrong, the Federal Communications Commission on Wednesday settled a lawsuit for tens of thousands of dollars after unlawfully withholding records from a reporter under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

The FCC will pay over $43,000 in attorneys’ fees and costs to New York journalist Jason Prechtel over records he initially requested almost two years ago concerning its 2017 net neutrality proceeding. 

Read more here.

FOIA News: Cause of Action Sues Commerce Dept. for Failing to Release Auto-Tariff Report

FOIA News (2019)Kevin SchmidtComment

Cause of Action Sues Commerce Dept. for Failing to Release Auto-Tariff Report

Cause of Action Institute, March 21, 2019

Cause of Action Institute (CoA Institute) filed a lawsuit against the Department of Commerce (Commerce) for failing to respond to two Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests seeking a copy of the Commerce Secretary’s final report to the President regarding the Section 232 investigation into the national security impacts of the Administration’s proposed foreign automobile tariffs. The Commerce Department has previously stated that it will not make the report public. In an effort to increase transparency and protect Americans’ economic freedom, CoA Institute filed a FOIA request so the public can see the report, but Commerce did not produce it within the statutory timeline.

Read more here.

FOIA News: Syracuse study examines FOIA staffing and costs

FOIA News (2019)Allan BlutsteinComment

FOIA study indicates ‘imbalance’ between agency staff and number of cases

By Jory Heckman, Fed. News Network, Mar. 20, 2019

The government received yet another record-breaking volume of Freedom of Information Act requests last year, but a handful of agencies, year after year, continue to receive the majority of those requests.

A study featured Wednesday at a meeting of the FOIA Advisory Committee at the National Archives and Records Administration shows that for every FOIA officer, there are about 188 FOIA requests.

That ratio between workforce and workload, said Tina Nabatchi, an associate professor for public administration and international affairs at Syracuse University, appears difficult to manage.

Read more here.

FOIA News: Army seeks $290k for water contamination records

FOIA News (2019)Allan BlutsteinComment

Army bill for public records on contaminant: About $300,000

By Ellen Knickmeyer, AP, Mar. 20, 2019

The U.S. Army has put a price tag on releasing the results of water tests for a dangerous contaminant at military installations: nearly $300,000.

In a March 12 letter, the Army told the Environmental Working Group, an advocacy group, that the military would charge the group $290,400 to provide records of water tests at 154 installations for a family of compounds known as PFAS, which federal authorities say appear linked to certain cancers and other health and developmental problems.

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FOIA News: News media requesters zeroed in on EPA after Trump win

FOIA News (2019)Allan BlutsteinComment

Media FOIA Requests to EPA Spiked After Trump Election, Data Reveal

Analysis: Outlets such as NYT, WaPo grew FOIA-happy immediately after Trump took office

By Brent Scher, Wash. Free Beacon, Mar. 20, 2019  

The number of Freedom of Information Act requests the Environmental Protection Agency received from mainstream outlets such as the New York Times and Washington Post spiked immediately after Republican President Donald Trump took office, according to a Free Beacon analysis of FOIA requests by the media from 2013 to the present.

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FOIA News: OGIS profiles FOIA Advisory Committee member

FOIA News (2019)Allan BlutsteinComment

Getting to Know the FOIA Advisory Committee: Patricia Weth

OGIS Blog, March 20, 2019

Today we present an interview with Patricia Weth, Deputy Assistant General Counsel in the FOIA Branch of the National Labor Relations Board and a member of the FOIA Advisory Committee.  This is part of a series of posts on the Committee, whose members are FOIA experts from inside and outside of government who are appointed by the Archivist.

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FOIA News: FCC defends withholdings of net neutrality comments

FOIA News (2019)Allan BlutsteinComment

New York Times Not Entitled To Information About Net Neutrality Commenters, FCC Says

By Wendy Davis, Digital News Daily, Mar. 18, 2019

The Federal Communications Commission is asking a judge to reject The New York Times Company's request for information about comments submitted to the agency in its 2017 net neutrality proceeding.

The agency argues in new court papers that the data sought by the Times -- including IP addresses associated with comments -- would compromise commenters' privacy. The FCC also says it can't provide the information sought by the news company without undertaking new research.

Read more here.