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How to Make a FOIA Request

Overview

The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and the Privacy Act (PA) grant you the right to access many government records about how the government operates.

Under FOIA, any person has a right to a copy of certain records possessed by the executive offices, agencies, corporations, administrations, commissions, boards and services. However, some records (sensitive, personal, commercial and governmental) are protected from disclosure.

A FOIA request must be made in writing in accordance with Title 49 Code of Federal Regulations (49 CFR), Part 7. A copy of Title 49 CFR Parts 1-99 can be obtained from the Government Printing Office nearest you , or can be viewed in its entirety from http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/browse/collectionCfr.action?collectionCode=CFR.

It helps if you can tell us in some detail what information you are trying to obtain (i.e., title of documents, time period that information covers). Please include your telephone number so that we can contact you if we have questions. Note: PHMSA under 49 CFR Part 7 is allowed to charge fees to the requester in order to recover the direct costs of search, duplication, and review of requested records.

Once a FOIA request is received by this office, a letter acknowledging receipt will be mailed to you. This letter will contain a FOIA case number that has been assigned to your request. Where possible, your FOIA request will be processed within 20 business days unless the information is voluminous in size or if the information is being obtained from regional offices and requires more time. If this occurs you may be contacted and informed that an extension of time is needed to fill your request.

FOIA Fees

Under 49 CRF Part 7, PHMSA is allowed to charge fees to the requestor in order to recover the direct costs of search, duplication, and review of requested records.  

If the total cost of the requested information is less than $10, the fees are normally waived.  Within your FOIA request you must obligate that you will pay the processing fee associated with your request.  PHMSA charges $.10 a page for duplication and an hourly rate for manual search time.  This rate is based on the hourly specified pay range of the employee performing the function - normally charged at $50.00 an hour.  Other possible charges include $25.00 an hour for computer time (downloading information from databases), $1.00 per disc, $5.00 per video, and $4.00 to certify documents.  

In some cases, fee waivers or reductions of fees are granted in the public interest, but must be requested and justified by supporting documentation.  

You will be billed when the requested records are sent to you and you have 30 days to remit payment. If the costs exceed $250, prepayment may be required.

Under FOIA, you have the right to an administrative appeal for a denial of records and no records response from the Agency. The appeal information will be included in your response from the Agency.  Any questions concerning these procedures may be directed to the FOIA Contacts.

Updated: Tuesday, October 24, 2017