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IMPROVING THE FOIA PROCESSES IN OPP TO MEET THE EFOIA CHALLENGES

Information provided for informational purposes only

Note: This information is provided for reference purposes only. Although the information provided here was accurate and current when first created, it is now outdated.


Background

The Freedom of Information Action (FOIA), initially enacted in 1966, was last amended in 1996 to include the "Electronic" Freedom of Information Act amendments. These amendments were developed to improve the public's access to government information and records. Two of the major provisions of the E-FOIA amendments focus on the availability of frequently requested documents through an electronic reading room and the ability to access documents through an electronic format. Finally, the amendments put the customer on the forefront, enhancing/ expanding the information product through the help of information technology and putting the burden of accountability on the government.

The Information Resources and Services Division, Public Information and Records Integrity Branch, has full responsibility for satisfying all requests directed to the Office of Pesticide Programs. Science-related reports, data and information must be gathered from various OPP sources, reviewed for appropriateness and removal of all applicable CBI considerations. In assessing the program's ability to address the changes under the FOIA amendments, it was determined that there was not sufficient detailed information maintained to determine the frequency of requests for a record. We also saw a need to capture detailed information and to implement a taxonomy for classification of FOIA records, which we will be able to implement under an E-FOIA records management and tracking system.

Where We Are Today

  • In September 1999, established an electronic FOIA reading room via the OPP web site to:
    Provide ability to disseminate information in various formats (listing of re-requested documents (science reviews); explanation of FOIA and E-FOIA; guidance on submitting a FOIA request; glossary of FOIA terms; links to other information sites within and outside of the Agency. The URL address is: http://www.epa.gov/pesticides/foia.
  • Procuring an E-FOIA Records Management & Tracking System which will:
    1. Provide ability to implement an electronic document management system that will manage the entire life cycle of the documents.
    2. Enable us to enhance the current FOIA web site to support queries
    3. Enable us to more easily customize our information systems to be more capable of satisfying the constant information needs of the public.
    4. Enable us to develop and implement a comprehensive records management plan inclusive of electronic mail messages.

A significant number of our FOIA requests are from requesters who have viewed our index of cleared (CBI has been redacted) science reviews and are requesting information based the index. The index is updated on a bi-weekly basis and before the end of the fiscal year, the actual science reviews will be available via the internet site.

For more information, please contact:

Linda Vlier Moos, Acting Director
Information Resources & Services Division (IRSD)
703-305-5440

Sherri Y. Street, Chief
Public Information & Records Integrity Branch, IRSD
703-308-8639


Office of Pesticide Programs - A Partner in the EPA's
Combined Docket Project: EPA Docks


Background

On April 1, 2002, the United States Environmental Protection Agency launched a Headquarters-wide electronic docket system (eight (8) dockets will be part of the system) that will provide on-line access to documents produced as part of the Agency's administrative rule making process. The new electronic docket system is accessible through the EPA internet site and will provide any and all interested parties within and outside of the Agency the means to instantly access information regarding the status of any current rule, proposed action or notification to easily submit comments. This system is an excellent example of what EPA is striving to accomplish: Provide useful, timely and instantaneous access to information decision-makers need to support the Agency's efforts in protecting human health and the environment. The Office of Prevention, Pesticides and Toxic Substances will be go live on the system in the fall of 2002.

The three components of E Docks are: public access, docket management, and document/action development.

Where We Are Today

  • The E Docks is a "day-forward" system, meaning that as OPP begins putting new information in its paper docket, it will also make the same information electronically through E Docks. Older documents will only be scanned in the system as need and interest dictate.


  • By the end of August 2002, EPA will house a consolidated physical docket facility. All of the dockets with the exception of the OPP docket will physically be moving to this new site (the old Customs Building). However, the OPP docket will be fully connected to the other dockets electronically. Visitors to the docket will be able to access the electronic docket system via the work stations which will be established in the center and will also be able to access the official paper dockets. However, OPP's paper copies will still be housed in CM2.

  • In May, all affected OPP personnel will have completed training on the system and an official announcement from the Administrator on the new system is expected before June.

  • OPP will maintain a paper system until the Regulatory Public Access System (RPAS) becomes the official record. Currently, we are "loading" the system in preparation for our fall launch, and only paper copies are available.

The information contained in the system will be typical of what is contained in the current paper docket and this includes files created during the process such as Federal Register notices. The system will not include documents containing CBI, copyrighted material, audio and video, oversized printed materials (greater than 11" x 14") or other physical, three dimensional items.

The system will allow access to information by a "quick search," or through an "advanced search," which will display indexed fields such as docket name, docket number, type of document, Federal Register reference, CFR citation, etc.

The system will enable the public to electronically submit comments on rulemaking actions. Comments will be able to be submitted online by clicking "Submit Comment" on the system's home page. Public comments will be processed upon receipt by the OPP docket staff and incorporated into E Docks.

If you have any questions or require more information, please contact:

Linda Vlier Moos, Acting Director
Information Resources and Services Division
703-305-5440

Electronic Data Submission and Review Efforts at EPA's Office of Pesticide Programs

OPP formed the Electronic Data Submission (EDS) Workgroup in late 1999. One of its goals was to develop a unified OPP approach to electronic data submission and review. Pilot submissions from industry were used to explore the utility of EDS in improving pesticide data review speed and accuracy. Adobe Acrobat Portable Document Format (PDF) was chosen as the standard because it is inexpensive and easy for the wide range of U.S. pesticide registrants to implement and provides OPP reviewers with easily learned tools to help them work more efficiently and effectively.

The pesticide industry is very interested in the potential of EDS to transform companies' document management practices and to speed the review of applications by OPP. CropLife America (CLA) and individual registrants have worked closely with OPP in developing the EDS process and in coordinating pilot submissions. A joint OPP/ACPA (now CLA) workshop held in March 2000 included presentations by Canada's Pest Management Regulatory Agency and the U.S. FDA. OPP is working closely with Canada through a joint NAFTA project to ensure compatible EDS systems; and FDA's EDS guidance for new drugs was used by OPP as a reference in the development of OPP's own guidance documents. A second joint workshop is planned for November 2002.

OPP's science divisions are working with industry to reach initial agreement on the data structures for various types of supplemental files (e.g. raw tumor data). SAS Transport has been selected as the standard for these files, which are additional review aids that registrants may include in the electronic data submission to facilitate data analysis by OPP reviewers. Once an agreement on data structures has been reached, that information will be added to the EDS guidance documents that are posted on the OPP website. (See ‘Electronic Data Submission' under ‘Topics' - ‘Registration' at www.epa.gov/pesticides.

In the fall of 2001, OPP began encouraging all pesticide registrants to submit their data packages in electronic form whenever possible. To date, OPP has received 25 electronic data submissions containing a total of over 700 studies. Another 360 studies are due to arrive shortly; and six additional submissions are planned for the Summer 2002. Although we have moved beyond the pilot phase by making electronic data submission a routine option available to all registrants, the dialogue between OPP and industry will continue as more companies become participants and more OPP scientists have an opportunity to utilize electronic data to perform their reviews. Additions to and refinements of the existing guidance will be posted to the website.

If you have any questions or require more information, please contact:

Kate Bouve
Information Services Branch
Information Resources and Services Division
703-305-5613

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