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Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)

Learn about FOIA

On this page:

  • Overview
  • Sources to Check before submitting a FOIA request
  • Freedom of Information Act exemptions

Overview

Enacted in 1966, the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) has provided the public the right to request access to records from any federal agency.  Federal agencies are required to disclose any information requested under the FOIA unless it falls under one of nine exemptions which protect interests such as personal privacy, national security, and law enforcement.

Sources to Check Before Submitting a FOIA Request

FOIA's Nine Exemptions

The Freedom of Information Act gives any person the right to access federal agency records except when the records, or portion of the records, are protected from public disclosure by a FOIA exemption. There are nine FOIA exemptions:

  1. Classified national defense and foreign relations information.
  2. Internal agency rules and practices.
  3. Information that is prohibited from disclosure by another federal law.
  4. Trade secrets and other confidential business information.
  5. Inter-agency or intra-agency communications that are protected by legal privileges.
  6. Information involving matters of personal privacy (protected under the Privacy Act or containing sensitive personally identifiable information).
  7. Information compiled for law enforcement purposes, to the extent that the production of those records:
    1. Could reasonably be expected to interfere with enforcement proceedings.
    2. Would deprive a person of a right to a fair trial or an impartial adjudication.
    3. Could reasonably be expected to constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.
    4. Could reasonably be expected to disclose the identity of a confidential source.
    5. Would disclose techniques and procedures for law enforcement, investigations or prosecutions, or would disclose guidelines for law enforcement investigations or prosecutions.
    6. Could reasonably be expected to endanger the life or physical safety of any individual.
  8. Information relating to the supervision of financial institutions.
  9. Geological information on wells.

Learn more about FOIA exemptions in the U.S. Department of Justice Guide to the Freedom of Information Act.

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