CEQ FOIA Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is the Freedom of Information Act?
2. How much does it cost to make a FOIA request?
3. Do I need a special form to make a FOIA request?
4. What are FOIA exemptions?
5. How long will it take to get an answer to my FOIA request?
6. What if I have questions about the status of my request?
7. May I ask for my request to be expedited?
8. How can I appeal CEQ’s response to my request?
9. When will I get a response to my appeal?
10. Does CEQ have records I can review without filing a FOIA request?
The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) encourages Government accountability through transparency. It provides that any person has a right, enforceable in court, to obtain access to Federal agency records, except to the extent that such records (or portions of them) are protected from public disclosure by one of nine exemptions or by one of three special law enforcement record exclusions. These exemptions are listed below.
Filing a FOIA request is absolutely free; however, search and duplication costs may apply, depending on who you are and what you plan to do with the information you are seeking. For example, if you are requesting information on behalf of an educational or non-commercial scientific institution, or a representative of the media, CEQ shall provide the first 100 pages of responsive documents at no charge and, beginning with page 101, charge for reproduction costs only. On the other hand, documents requested for commercial use will incur the full direct cost of searching for, reviewing, and duplicating responsive records.
FOIA’s nine exemptions are designed to strike a “workable balance” between what citizens need to know and the Government’s need to protect certain information. These exemptions provide for withholding all or part of records involving national security information (1), records related solely to the internal personnel rules and practices of an agency (2), information that has been specifically exempted from disclosure by statute (3), trade secrets or commercial or financial information obtained from a person that is privileged or confidential (4), privileged information (5), personnel and medical files and similar files when disclosure would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy (6), law enforcement information (7), bank records (8), and information about wells (9).
CEQ has 20 working days to process a FOIA request. The clock starts ticking when the request is delivered to the FOIA office. Under unusual circumstances, CEQ may take an additional ten days to respond; you will be notified should that be the case. Note that heightened security measures in force may delay CEQ’s receipt of a request that is sent through the regular mail.
The FOIA Requester Service Center is designed to keep you apprised of the status of your request. You may email email@example.com or call (202) 456-4327 to speak with the FOIA Public Liaison.
You may request expedition of your request if you can demonstrate that the lack of expedited processing will pose an imminent threat to the life or physical safety of an individual or cause the loss of substantial due process rights. Expedited processing also may be granted if you can show widespread and exceptional media interest in which there exists possible questions about the Government’s integrity which has direct bearing on public confidence or if you are in the business of disseminating information and urgently need to inform the public about an actual or alleged Federal Government activity. You will be notified if your request for expedited process is granted, and CEQ will process your response within ten working days.
CEQ’s FOIA regulations provide for the appeal of a determination within 45 days of the date of CEQ’s response. Direct written appeals to: Freedom of Information Officer, CEQ, 722 Jackson Place, NW, Washington, DC 20503. Please note that heightened security measures are in place that may delay mail delivery to CEQ. In that context you may prefer to send your appeal to firstname.lastname@example.org or fax it to (202) 456-0753.
CEQ will respond to your appeal within 20 working days. Under unusual circumstances, CEQ may take an additional ten working days to respond. The clock begins to tick when the FOIA office receives your appeal in writing.
CEQ’s Proactive Disclosure Reading Room provides a variety of information about environmental issues in general and CEQ activities in particular. It is regularly updated with new material of interest to the public.