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Region 1: EPA New England

What Is FOIA?

What is the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)?

Freedom of Information Act - "FOIA" or "the Act" is a law enacted in 1966, that established citizens statutory right to access government records and information upon request. The basic purpose of FOIA is to "ensure an informed citizenry, vital to the functioning of a democratic society, needed to check against corruption and to hold the governors accountable to the governed." Basically, the public or any individual has the right to know or be informed about activities, decisions and policies of U.S. federal agencies. The Act is found at 5 U.S.C. ยง 552. EPA implements the Act under 40 C.F.R. Part 2.

What is a FOIA Request?

A FOIA request is a written request received by a U.S. federal agency from any individual or entity requesting records including databases held or believed to be held by an agency. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has records and data pertaining to human health and the environment (Air, Water and Soil), environmental laws and regulations, and waste management facilities that must comply with EPA regulations. Letters, faxs and e-mails are all considered to be written requests.

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What Are Agency Records?

"Records" means any EPA document, writing, photograph, sound or magnetic recording, drawing, computerized record (disks, database), electronic mail, EPA policies and decisions or anything in which information can be retrieved and/or copied.

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Who Can Submit A FOIA Request?

ANYONE! U.S. citizens (and non-U.S. citizens), corporations, associations, public interest groups, private individuals, universities, and local, state or foreign governments can all submit FOIA requests.

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What Happens to My Request?

Your request will be received by the Regional Freedom of Information Office. The request will be logged and assigned a unique identifying number called the "Requesters Identification Number" (RIN), which is used to track your FOIA request. You should reference the RIN number in all communications with EPA. You will be notified by either e-mail or regular mail of the RIN number, the date your request was received, and that EPA will respond within twenty (20) working days from the date received. EPA is allowed to charge fees to the requesters in order to recover the direct costs of search, duplication, and review of requested records. If the total costs of the requested information are less than $14, the fees are waived. However, if the costs exceed $25, you will be contacted on the actual amount so that you may provide a written "assurance of payment." You will be billed when the requested records are sent and have 30 days to remit payment. If the costs exceeds $250, prepayment may be required. Any documents that are denied in whole or in part will be indexed including the exemption(s) claimed for the denial. Under FOIA, you have the right of administrative appeal for a denial of records and no records response received from the Agency. The appeal information will be included in your response from the Agency.

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What is the Electronic FOIA Act?

FOIA was significantly amended in 1996 (The Electronic Freedom of Information Act Amendments of 1996) to embrace the revolution in electronic data collection and communication. The term "Records" was redefined to include those maintained in computerized/electronic formats. Most records created as of November 1, 1996 must be made available online (if the Agency has on-line capability) or in another electronic format (i.e., CD-ROM or computer diskette). Federal agencies (including EPA) must create an index of material previously released under FOIA and must make that index available online by the end of 1999.

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