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EPA Part 2 Section 104




Subpart A--Procedures for Disclosure of Records Under the Freedom
of Information Act

Sec.  2.104  Responses to requests and appeals.

    (a) Unless the Agency and the requester have agreed otherwise, or 
when unusual circumstances exist as provided in paragraph (e) of this 
section, EPA offices will respond to requests no later than 20 working 
days from the date the request is received and logged in by the 
appropriate FOI Office. EPA will ordinarily respond to requests in the 
order in which they were received. If EPA fails to respond to your 
request within the 20 working day period, or any authorized extension 
of time, you may seek judicial review to obtain the records without 
first making an administrative appeal.
    (b) On receipt of a request, the FOI Office ordinarily will send a 
written acknowledgment advising you of the date it was received and of 
the processing number assigned to the request for future reference.
    (c) Multitrack processing. The Agency uses three or more processing 
tracks by distinguishing between simple and complex requests based on 
the amount of work and/or time needed to process the request, including 
limits based on the number of pages involved. The Agency will advise 
you of the processing track in which your request has been placed and 
of the limits of the different processing tracks. The Agency may place 
your request in its slower track(s) while providing you the opportunity 
to limit the scope of your request in order to qualify for faster 
processing within the specified limits of the faster track(s). If your 
request is placed in a slower track, the Agency will contact you either 
by telephone or by letter, whichever is most efficient in each case.
    (d) Unusual circumstances. When the statutory time limits for 
processing a request cannot be met because of ``unusual 
circumstances,'' as defined in the FOIA, and the time limits are 
extended on that basis, you will be notified in writing, as soon as 
practicable, of the unusual circumstances and of the date by which 
processing of the request should be completed. When the extension is 
for more than 10 working days, the Agency will provide you with an 
opportunity either to modify the request so that it may be processed 
within the 10 working day time limit extension or to arrange an 
alternative time period for processing the original or modified 
    (e) Expedited processing. (1) Requests or appeals will be taken out 
of order and given expedited treatment whenever EPA determines that 
such requests or appeals involve a compelling need, as follows:
    (i) Circumstances in which the lack of expedited treatment could 
reasonably be expected to pose an imminent threat to the life or 
physical safety of an individual; or
    (ii) An urgency to inform the public about an actual or alleged 
Federal government activity, if the information is requested by a 
person primarily engaged in disseminating information to the public.
    (2) A request for expedited processing must be made at the time of 
the initial request for records or at the time of appeal.
    (3) If you are seeking expedited processing, you must submit a 
statement, certified to be true and correct to the best of your 
knowledge and belief, explaining in detail the basis for the request. 
For example, if you fit within the category described in paragraph 
(e)(1)(ii) of this section and are not a full-time member of the news 
media, you must establish that you are a person whose primary 
professional activity or occupation is information dissemination, 
although it need not be your sole occupation. If you fit within the 
category described in paragraph (e)(1)(ii) of this section, you must 
also establish a particular urgency to inform the public about the 
government activity involved in the request, beyond the public's right 
to know about government activity generally.
    (4) Within 10 calendar days from the date of your request for 
expedited processing, the head of the Headquarters FOI Staff or 
Regional FOI Officer will decide whether to grant your request and will 
notify you of the decision. If your request for expedited treatment is 
granted, the request will be given priority and will be processed as 
soon as practicable. If your request for expedited processing is 
denied, any appeal of that decision will be acted on expeditiously.
    (f) Grants of requests. Once an office makes a determination to 
grant a request in whole or in part, it will release the records or 
parts of records to you and notify you of any applicable fee charged 
under Sec.  2.107. Records released in part will be annotated, whenever 
technically feasible, with the applicable FOIA exemption(s) at that 
part of the record from which the exempt information was deleted.
    (g) Adverse determinations of requests. Once the Agency makes an 
adverse determination of a request, the requestor will be notified of 
that determination in writing. An adverse determination consists of a 
determination to withhold any requested record in whole or in part; a 
determination that a requested record does not exist or cannot be 
located; a determination that what has been requested is not a record 
subject to the FOIA; a determination on any disputed fee matter, 
including a denial of a request for a fee waiver; or a denial of a 
request for expedited treatment.
    (h) Initial denials of requests. The Deputy Administrator, 
Assistant Administrators, Regional Administrators, the General Counsel, 
the Inspector General, Associate Administrators, and heads of 
headquarters staff offices are delegated the authority to issue initial 
determinations. However, the authority to issue initial denials of 
requests for existing, located records (other than initial denials 
based solely on Sec.  2.204(d)(1)) may be redelegated only to persons 
occupying positions not lower than division director or equivalent. 
Each letter will include:
    (1) The name and title or position of the person responsible for 
the denial;
    (2) A brief statement of the reason(s) for the denial, including an 
identification of records being withheld (individual, or if a large 
number of similar records are being denied, by described category), and 
any FOIA exemption applied by the office in denying the request;
    (3) An estimate of the volume of records or information withheld, 
in number of pages or in some other reasonable form of estimation. This 
estimate does not need to be provided if the volume is otherwise 
indicated through annotated deletions on records disclosed in part, or 
if providing an estimate would harm an interest protected by an 
applicable exemption; and
    (4) A statement that the denial may be appealed under, and a 
description of the requirements of, paragraph (j) of this section.
    (i) Denial of fee waiver. The letter denying a request for a fee 
waiver or expedited treatment will be signed by the head of the 
Headquarters FOI Staff or Regional FOI Officers.
    (j) Appeals of adverse determinations. If you are dissatisfied with 
any adverse determination of your request by an office, you may appeal 
that determination to the Headquarters Freedom of Information Staff, 
Records, Privacy and FOIA Branch, Office of Information Collection, 
Office of Environmental Information, Environmental Protection Agency, 
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue (2822T), NW., Washington, DC 20460; e-mail: 
hq_foia@epa.gov. The appeal must be made in writing, and it must be 
submitted to the Headquarters FOI Staff no later than 30 calendar days 
from the

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date of the letter denying the request. The Agency will not consider 
appeals received after the 30-day limit. The appeal letter may include 
as much or as little related information as you wish, as long as it 
clearly identifies the determination being appealed (including the 
assigned FOIA request number, if known). For quickest possible 
handling, the appeal letter and its envelope should be marked ``Freedom 
of Information Act Appeal.'' Unless the Administrator directs 
otherwise, the General Counsel or his/her designee will act on behalf 
of the Administrator on all appeals under this section, except that:
    (1) In the case of an adverse initial determination by the General 
Counsel or his/her designee, the Administrator or his/her designee will 
act on the appeal;
    (2) The Counsel to the Inspector General will act on any appeal 
where the Inspector General or his/her designee has made the initial 
adverse determination; however, if the Counsel to the Inspector General 
has signed the initial adverse determination, the General Counsel or 
his/her designee will act on the appeal;
    (3) An adverse determination by the Administrator on an initial 
request will serve as the final action of the Agency; and
    (4) If a requester seeks judicial review because the Agency has not 
responded in a timely manner, any further action on an appeal will take 
place through the lawsuit.
    (k) The decision on your appeal will be made in writing, normally 
within 20 working days of its receipt by the Headquarters Freedom of 
Information Staff. A decision affirming an adverse determination in 
whole or in part will contain a statement of the reason(s) for the 
decision, including any FOIA exemption(s) applied, and inform you of 
the FOIA provisions for judicial review of the decision. If the adverse 
determination is reversed or modified on appeal, you will be notified 
in a written decision. This written decision will either have the 
requested information that has been determined on appeal to be 
releasable attached to it, or your request will be returned to the 
appropriate office so that it may be reprocessed in accordance with the 
appeal decision.
    (l) If you wish to seek judicial review of any adverse 
determination, you must first appeal that adverse determination under 
this section, except when EPA has not responded to your request within 
the statutory 20 working day time limit. In such cases, you may seek 
judicial review without making an administrative appeal.


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