Authority: 5 U.S.C. § 552.
Section 1 Purpose and scope.
This policy sets out the regulations of the Northwest Power Planning Council (Council) that implement 5 U.S.C. § 552, the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Persons seeking information from the Council may consult with the Council’s Freedom of Information Officer (FOIA Officer) before invoking the formal procedures set out below. To the extent permitted by other laws, the Council will make records available that it is authorized to withhold under 5 U.S.C. § 552 whenever it determines that such disclosure is in the public interest.
Section 2 Definitions (as used in this policy).
- Appeal Authority means the Council’s General Counsel.
- Freedom of Information Officer means the person designated by the Executive Director to manage FOIA requests.
Section 3 Public reading facilities.
- The Council will maintain a place where the materials required by 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(2) will be made available for public inspection and copying in its central offices in Portland, Oregon.
- The Council will also maintain a web page on the world wide web on which will be posted all the materials required by 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(2). This web page will be indexed and cross-referenced with links to facilitate public access to Council information.
- FOIA requests received by the state offices will be referred to the Council’s FOIA Officer.
Section 4 Elements of a request.
- A request for a Council record that is not made available under section 3(a), above, shall be addressed to the Freedom of Information Officer, Northwest Power Planning Council, 851 S.W. 6th Avenue, Suite 1100, Portland, Oregon 97204. Both the envelope and the letter shall be marked: “Freedom of Information Request.” A request will be considered received, for purposes of 5 U.S.C. ? 552(a)(6), upon actual receipt by the FOIA Officer.
- A request for access to records must be submitted in writing and must reasonably describe the records requested, to enable Council personnel to locate them with a reasonable amount of effort. When possible, specific information regarding dates, titles, file designations and other information that may help identify the records should be supplied, including the names and titles of any Council employees who have been contacted regarding the request prior to the submission of a written request. If the request relates to a matter in pending litigation, the court and its location should be identified to aid in locating the documents.
- A request may request all records falling within a reasonably specific and well-defined category if Council personnel can reasonably determine which particular records are sought in the request. The request must enable the Council to identify and locate the records sought by a process that is not unduly burdensome or disruptive of Council operations.
- If a request does not reasonably describe the records sought, the Council will invite the requester to confer with Council personnel to restate the request or reduce the request to manageable proportions. If additional information is needed to render records reasonably described, a reformulated and resubmitted request will be treated as an initial request for purposes of calculating the time for Council response.
- FOIA does not require the Council to honor a request for a record not yet in existence, even when such a document may be expected to come into existence at a later time. If a requested record is known to have been destroyed or otherwise disposed of, or if no such record is known to exist, the requester will be so notified.
- Some of the records in the files of the Council have been obtained from other federal agencies or contain information obtained from other federal agencies.
- If a record originated in another federal agency, the FOIA Officer will refer the request to that agency and inform the requester, unless the other agency agrees to direct release by the Council.
- Requests for Council records containing information received from another agency, or records prepared jointly by the Council and other agencies, will be treated as requests for Council records except that the FOIA Officer will coordinate with the appropriate official of the other agency.
Section 5 Processing requests.
- If the FOIA Officer determines a request complies with Section 4, he will promptly identify and review the records encompassed by the request. The FOIA Officer will prepare a written response: (1) granting the request, (2) denying the request, (3) granting/denying it in part, (4) stating that the request has been referred to another agency under Section 4(f), or (5) informing the requester that responsive records cannot be located or do not exist.
- Action pursuant to paragraph (a) of this section will be taken within 20 working days of receipt of a request for Council records, except that, if unusual circumstances require an extension of time before a decision on a request can be reached and the requester is promptly informed in writing by the FOIA Officer of the reasons for such extension and the date on which a determination is expected to be dispatched, then the FOIA Officer may take an extension not to exceed 10 working days. For purposes of this policy, the term “unusual circumstances” includes but is not limited to:
- The need to search for and collect the requested records from the Council’s state offices;
- The need to search for, collect and examine a voluminous amount of separate and distinct records that are responsive to a single request; or
- The need for consultation, which shall be conducted with all practicable speed, with another agency having a substantial interest in the determination of the request.
- If no determination has been made at the end of the 20-day period, or the last extension thereof, the requester may deem his administrative remedies to have been exhausted, giving rise to a right of review in a district court of the United States as specified in 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(4). In that event, the FOIA Officer will continue to process the request and will inform the requester of the reason for the delay, of the date on which a determination may be expected, and of the requester’s right to seek a judicial remedy, but will ask the requester to forego such action until a determination is made.
- Nothing in this policy precludes the FOIA Officer and a requester from agreeing to an extension of time for the initial determination on a request. Any such agreement will be confirmed in writing and will specify the total time agreed upon.
Section 6 Responses.
- Records requested pursuant to Section 4 will be made available promptly, when they are identified and determined to be non-exempt under this policy, the Freedom of Information Act, and where the applicable fees are $250 or less or when it has been determined that the payment of applicable fees should be waived.
- Denial of a request for a record will be in writing, signed by the FOIA Officer and will include:
- The reason for denial, with a reference to the specific exemption under the Freedom of Information Act authorizing the withholding of the record, a brief explanation of how the exemption applies to the record withheld, and a statement of why discretionary release is not appropriate.
- The name of the FOIA Officer, and the name and the title or position of each Council staff member with whom the FOIA Officer conferred in reaching the determination of denial.
- A statement or notation addressing the issue of whether there is any segregable non-exempt material in the documents or portions thereof identified as being denied.
- A statement that the determination to deny documents may be appealed within 30 calendar days to Council’s General Counsel.
- Although a determination that no such record is known to exist is not a denial, the requester will be informed that the adequacy of a search may be challenged by appealing within 30 calendar days to the Council’s General Counsel.
Section 7 Appeal of initial denials.
- When the FOIA Officer has denied a request for records in whole or in part or has responded that there are no documents responsive to the request, the requester may, within 30 calendar days of its receipt, appeal the determination to the Council’s General Counsel or his designee.
- An appeal must be in writing, addressed to the General Counsel, Northwest Power Planning Council, 851 S.W. 6th Avenue, Suite 1100, Portland, Oregon 97204 and both the envelope and letter must be marked “Freedom of Information Appeal.” The appeal must contain a concise statement of ground or grounds upon which it is brought and a description of the relief sought. A copy of the letter containing the determination being appealed must be submitted with the appeal.
- An appeal will be considered received for purposes of 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(6) when received by the appeal authority.
- The appeal authority will act upon the appeal within 20 working days of its receipt, except that if unusual circumstances (as defined above) require, the appeal authority may extend the time for an additional 10 working days and shall notify the requester in writing. When no determination can be issued within the applicable time limit, the appeal will nevertheless continue to be processed.
- If the appeal has not been decided within 20-days or any extension, the requester may consider his administrative remedies to be exhausted and seek review in a district court of the United States as specified in 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(4). The requester may be asked to forego judicial review until determination of the appeal.
- Nothing in this policy will preclude the appeal authority and a requester from agreeing to an extension of time for the decision on an appeal. Such an agreement will be confirmed in writing by the appeal authority and will specify the total time agreed upon.
- The appeal authority's determination will be in writing and will set forth the reason for the decision, as well as a statement that it constitutes final agency action and that judicial review is available in a district court of the United States as specified in 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(4). Documents determined by the appeal authority to be documents subject to release will be made promptly available to the requester upon payment of any applicable fees.
Section 8 Fees.
The Council does not ordinarily charge to satisfy a FOIA request, but reserves the right to collect all such costs. If the Council determines that the actual costs to fulfill a FOIA request, including the search for documents, review and duplication of records, are likely to exceed $250, it will notify the requester. If the requester, working with Council staff, cannot modify the request to reduce the anticipated cost, the Council will use, as appropriate, the regulations of the Department of Energy for “Fees for providing records,” found at 10 CFR Part 1004.9.
Section 9 Exemptions.
- 5 U.S.C. § 552 exempts from all of its publication and disclosure requirements nine categories of records, described in paragraph (b) of that section. These categories include such matters as national defense and foreign policy information; investigatory records; internal procedures and communications; materials exempted from disclosure by other statutes; confidential, commercial, and financial information; and matters involving personal privacy.
- The exemptions in 5 U.S.C. § 552(b) will be applied consistent with Section 1 of this policy.
- Any reasonably segregable non-exempt portion of a record will be provided to a requester. The Council will delete portions that are withholdable under the exemptions referred to above.
Section 10 Handling exempt information submitted to the Council.
- The Council does not ordinarily accept submitted information that contains material that may be exempt from public disclosure. In the rare instances in which it is important for the Council to have such exempt information to fulfill its statutory mandates, it will evaluate the status of such information before allowing it to be submitted. The Council will consider the submitter's views in making its determination and notify the submitter of its determination before accepting the information.
- The Council is authorized to request all information necessary for the performance of its functions, subject to such requirements of law concerning trade secrets and proprietary data as are applicable, from the Administrator of the Bonneville Power Administration and other federal agencies, who are directed to furnish the Council such information, to the extent authorized by other provisions of law. When such information is deemed exempt from disclosure by the FOIA Officer of the agency furnishing it to the Council, the Council shall also treat such information as exempt.
Section 11 Computation of time.
In computing any period of time prescribed or allowed by this policy, the day of the event from which the designated period of time begins to run is not to be included; the last day of the period so computed is to be included. Saturdays, Sundays, and legal holidays are excepted.
Latest revision approved by Executive Committee: September 23, 1998