10 CFR 1004.9 - Fees for providing records.
(a) Fees to be charged. The DOE will charge fees that recoup the full allowable direct costs incurred. The DOE will use the most efficient and least costly methods to comply with requests for documents made under the FOIA. The DOE may contract with private sector services to locate, reproduce and disseminate records in response to FOIA requests when that is the most efficient and least costly method. When doing so, however, the DOE will ensure that the ultimate cost to the requester is no greater than it would be if the DOE itself had performed these tasks. In no case will the DOE contract out responsibilities which the FOIA provides that only the agency may discharge, such as determining the applicability of an exemption, or determining whether to waive or reduce fees, which are determinations by Authorizing Officials or FOIA Officers. Where the DOE can identify documents that are responsive to a request and are maintained for public distribution by other agencies such as the National Technical Information Service and the Government Printing Office, the FOIA Officer will inform requesters of the procedures to obtain records from those sources.
(1) Manual searches for records. Whenever feasible, the DOE will charge for manual searches for records at the salary rate(s) (i.e. basic pay plus 16 percent) of the employee(s) making the search.
(2) Computer searches for records. The DOE will charge at the actual direct cost of providing the service. This will include the cost of operating the central processing unit (CPU) for that portion of operating time that is directly attributable to searching for records responsive to a FOIA request and operator/programmer salary.
(3) Review of records. The DOE will charge requesters who are seeking documents for commercial use for time spent reviewing records to determine whether they are exempt from mandatory disclosure. Charges will be assessed only for the initial review (i.e., the review undertaken the first time the DOE analyzes the applicability of a specific exemption to a particular record or portion of a record. The DOE will not charge for review at the administrative appeal level of an exemption already applied. However, records or portions of records withheld in full under an exemption which is subsequently determined not to apply may be reviewed again to determine the applicability of other exemptions not previously considered. The costs for such a subsequent review would be properly assessable.
(4) Duplication of records. The DOE will make a per-page charge for paper copy reproduction of documents. At present, the charge for paper to paper copies will be ten cents per page and the charge for microform to paper copies will be ten cents per page. For computer generated copies, such as tapes or printouts, the DOE will charge the actual cost, including operator time, for production of the tape or printout. For other methods of reproduction or duplication, we will charge the actual direct costs of producing the document(s).
(5) Other charges. It shall be noted that complying with requests for special services such as those listed below is entirely at the discretion of this agency. Neither the FOIA nor its fee structure cover these kinds of services. The DOE will recover the full direct costs of providing services such as those enumerated below to the extent that we elect to provide them:
(i) Certifying that records are true copies;
(ii) Sending records by special methods such as express mail, etc.
(6) Restrictions on assessing fees.
(i) With the exception of requesters seeking documents for a commercial use, section (a)(4)(A)(iv) of the Freedom of Information Act, as amended, DOE will provide the first 100 pages of duplication and the first two hours of search time without charge. Moreover, DOE will not charge fees to any requester, including commercial use requesters, if the cost of collecting the fee would be equal to or greater than the fee itself. These provisions work together, so that except for commercial use requesters, DOE will not begin to assess fees until after the Department has provided the free search and reproduction. For example, if a request involves two hours and ten minutes of search time and results in 105 pages of documents, DOE will charge for only 10 minutes of search time and only five pages of reproduction. If this cost is equal to or less than $15.00, the amount DOE incurs to process a fee collection, no charges would be assessed. For purposes of these restrictions on assessment of fees, the word “pages” refers to paper copies of a standard agency size which will be normally be “8- 1/2 × 11” or “11 × 14.” Thus, requesters would not be entitled to 100 microfiche or 100 computer disks, for example. A microfiche containing the equivalent of 100 pages or 100 pages of computer printout, however, might meet the terms of the restriction. Similarly, the term “search time” is based on a manual search. To apply this term to searches made by computer, the DOE will determine the hourly cost of operating the central processing unit and the operator's hourly salary plus 16 percent. When the cost of the search (including the operator time and the cost of operating the computer to process a request) equals the equivalent dollar amount of two hours of the salary of the computer operator conducting the search, DOE will begin assessing charges for computer search.
(ii) When unusual or exceptional circumstances do not apply and time limits specified in the FOIA are not met, the DOE will not charge any search fees, or duplication fees for educational and non-commercial scientific institution requesters and requesters who are representatives of the news media.
(7) Notification of charges. If the DOE determines or estimates that the fees to be assessed under this section may amount to more than $25.00, the requester will be informed of the estimated amount of fees, unless the requester has previously indicated a willingness to pay the amount estimated by the agency. In cases where a requester has been notified that actual or estimated fees may amount to more than $25.00, the request will be deemed not to have been received until the requester has agreed to pay the anticipated total fee. A notice to a requester pursuant to this paragraph will offer the opportunity to confer with DOE personnel in order to reformulate the request to meet his or her needs at a lower cost.
(8) Waiving or reducing fees. The DOE will furnish documents without charge or at reduced charges if disclosure of the information is in the public interest because it is likely to contribute significantly to public understanding of the operations or activities of the government and disclosure is not primarily in the commercial interest of the requester. This fee waiver standard thus sets forth two basic requirements, both of which must be satisfied before fees will be waived or reduced. First it must be established that disclosure of the requested information is in the public interest because it is likely to contribute significantly to public understanding of the operations or activities of the government. Second, it must be established that disclosure of the information is not primarily in the commercial interest of the requester. When these requirements are satisfied, based upon information supplied by a requester or otherwise made known to the DOE, the waiver or reduction of a FOIA fee will be granted. In determining when fees should be waived or reduced the appropriate FOIA Officer should address the following two criteria:
(i) That disclosure of the Information “is in the Public Interest Because it is Likely to Contribute Significantly to Public Understanding of the Operations or Activities of the Government.” Factors to be considered in applying this criteria include but are not limited to:
(A) The subject of the request: Whether the subject of the requested records concerns “the operations or activities of the government”;
(B) The informative value of the information to be disclosed: Whether the disclosure is “likely to contribute” to an understanding of government operations or activities;
(C) The contribution to an understanding by the general public of the subject likely to result from disclosure; and
(D) The significance of the contribution to public understanding: Whether the disclosure is likely to contribute “significantly” to public understanding of government operations or activities.
(ii) If Disclosure of the Information “is Not Primarily in the Commercial Interest of the Requester.” Factors to be considered in applying this criteria include but are not limited to:
(A) The existence and magnitude of a commercial interest: Whether the requester has a commercial interest that would be furthered by the requested disclosure; and, if so
(B) The primary interest in disclosure: Whether the magnitude of the identified commercial interest of the requester is sufficiently large, in comparison with the public interest in disclosure, that disclosure is “primarily in the commercial interest of the requester.”
(b) Fees to be charged - categories of requesters. There are four categories of FOIA requesters: Commercial use requesters; educational and non-commercial scientific institutions; representatives of the news media; and all other requesters. The FOIA Officers will make determinations regarding categories of requesters as defined at § 1004.2. The Headquarters FOIA Officers will assist field FOIA Officers in categorizing requesters, and will resolve conflicting categorizations. The FOIA prescribes specific levels of fees for each of these categories:
(1) Commercial use requesters. When the DOE receives a request for documents which appears to be for commercial use, charges will be assessed to recover the full direct costs of searching for, reviewing for release, and duplicating the records sought. Commerical use requesters are not entitled to two hours of free search time nor 100 free pages of reproduction of documents. The DOE will recover the cost of searching for and reviewing records even if there is ultimately no disclosure of records.
(2) Educational and non-commercial scientific institution requesters. The DOE will provide documents to requesters in this category for the cost of reproduction only, excluding charges for the first 100 pages. To be eligible for inclusion in this category, requesters must show that the request is being made as authorized by and under the auspices of a qualifying institution and that the records are not sought for a commercial use, but are sought in furtherance of scholarly (if the request is from an educational institution) or scientific (if the request is from a non-commercial scientific institution) research.
(3) Requesters who are representatives of the news media. The DOE will provide documents to requesters in this category for the cost of reproduction only, excluding charges for the first 100 pages. To be eligible for inclusion in this category, a requester must meet the criteria in § 1004.2(m), and his or her request must not be made for a commercial use. With respect to this class of requesters, a request for records supporting the news dissemination function of the requester will not be considered to be a request for a commercial use.
(4) All other requesters. The DOE will charge requesters who do not fall into any of the above categories fees which recover the full reasonable direct cost of searching for and reproducing records that are responsive to the request, except that the first 100 pages of reproduction and the first two hours of search time will be furnished without charge. Moreover, requests from individuals for records about themselves filed in DOE systems of records will continue to be processed under the fee provisions of the Privacy Act of 1974.
(5) Charging interest - notice and rate. Interest will be charged those requesters who fail to pay fees. The DOE will begin to assess interest charges on the amount billed on the 31st day following the day on which the billing was sent to the requester. Interest will be at the rate prescribed in section 3717 of Title 31 U.S.C. and will accrue from the date of the billing.
(6) Charges for unsuccessful search. The DOE will assess charges for time spent searching even if the search fails to identify responsive records or if records located are determined to be exempt from disclosure. If the DOE estimates that search charges are likely to exceed $25, it will notify the requester of the estimated amount of fees, unless the requester has indicated in advance his willingness to pay fees as high as those anticipated. Such a notice will offer the requester the opportunity to confer with agency personnel in order to reformulate the request to reduce the cost of the request.
(7) Aggregating requests. A requester may not file multiple requests each seeking portions of a document or documents, solely to avoid payment of fees. When the DOE reasonably believes that a requester or, a group of requesters acting in concert, is attempting to break a request down into a series of requests for the purpose of evading the assessment of fees, the DOE will aggregate any such requests and charge the appropriate fees. The DOE may consider the time period in which the requests have been made in its determination to aggregate the related requests. In no case will DOE aggregate multiple requests on unrelated subjects from one requester.
(8) Advance payments. Requesters are not required to make an advance payment (i.e., payment before action is commenced or continued on a request) unless:
(i) The DOE estimates or determines that allowable charges that a requester may be required to pay are likely to exceed $250.00. In such cases, the DOE will notify the requester of the likely cost and obtain a satisfactory assurance of full payment where the requester has a history of prompt payment of FOIA fees, or require an advance payment of an amount up to the full estimated charges in the case of requesters with no history of payment.
(ii) A requester has previously failed to pay a fee in a timely fashion (i.e., within 30 days of the date of the billing). The DOE will require the requester to pay the full amount delinquent plus any applicable interest as provided in paragraph (b)(5) of this section, or demonstrate that he or she has, in fact, paid the delinquent fee; and to make an advance payment of the full amount of the estimated current fee before we begin to process a new request or a pending request from that requester.
When the DOE acts under paragraphs (b)(8) (i) or (ii) of this section, the administrative time limits prescribed in subsection (a)(6) of the FOIA (i.e., 20 working days from receipt of initial requests and 20 working days from receipt of appeals from initial denials, plus permissible extensions of these time limits) will begin only after the DOE has received fee payments described above.
(c) Effect of the Debt Collection Act of 1982 (Pub. L. 97-365). The DOE will use the authorities of the Debt Collection Act, including disclosure to consumer reporting agencies and the use of collection agencies, where appropriate, to encourage payment of fees.