40 CFR 2.107 - Fees.
(a) In general. The Agency will charge for processing requests under the FOIA in accordance with paragraph (c) of this section, except where fees are limited under paragraph (d) of this section or where a waiver or reduction of fees is granted under paragraph (l) of this section. Requesters will pay fees by check or money order made payable to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
(b) Definitions. For purposes of this section:
(1) Commercial use request means a request from or on behalf of a person who seeks information for a use or purpose that furthers his/her commercial, trade, or profit interests, which can include furthering those interests through litigation. FOI Officers will determine, whenever reasonably possible, the use to which a requester will put the requested records. When it appears that the requester will put the records to a commercial use, either because of the nature of the request itself or because an office has reasonable cause to doubt a requester's stated use, the FOI Officer will provide the requester a reasonable opportunity to submit further clarification.
(2) Direct costs means those expenses that the Agency actually incurs in searching for and duplicating (and, in the case of commercial use requests, reviewing) records to respond to a FOIA request. Direct costs include, for example, the salary of the employee performing the work and the cost of operating duplication equipment. Not included in direct costs are overhead expenses such as the costs of space and heating or lighting of the facility in which the records are kept.
(3) Duplication means the making of a copy of a record, or of the information contained in it, necessary to respond to a FOIA request. Copies can take the form of paper, microform, audiovisual materials, or electronic records (for example, magnetic tape, disk, or compact disk), among others. The Agency will honor a requester's specified preference of form or format of disclosure if the record is readily reproducible with reasonable efforts in the requested form or format.
(4) Educational institution means a preschool, a public or private elementary or secondary school, an institution of undergraduate higher education, an institution of graduate higher education, an institution of professional education, or an institution of vocational education, that operates a program of scholarly research. To be in this category, a requester must show that the request is authorized by, and is made under the auspices of, a qualifying institution and that the records are not sought for a commercial use but are sought to further scholarly research.
(5) Noncommercial scientific institution means an institution that is not operated on a “commercial” basis, as that term is defined in paragraph (b)(1) of this section, and that is operated solely for the purpose of conducting scientific research which is not intended to promote any particular product or industry. To be in this category, a requester must show that the request is authorized by, and is made under the auspices of, a qualifying institution and that the records are not sought for a commercial use but are sought to further scientific research.
(6) Representative of the news media or news media requester means any person actively gathering news for an entity that is organized and operated to publish or broadcast news to the public. The term “news” means information that is about current events or that would be of current interest to the public. Examples of news media include television or radio stations broadcasting to the public at large and publishers of periodicals (but only in those instances where they can qualify as disseminators of “news”) who make their products available for purchase or subscription by the general public. For “freelance” journalists to be regarded as working for a news organization, they must demonstrate a solid basis for expecting publication through that organization. A publication contract would be the clearest proof, but FOI Officers will also look to the past publication record of a requester in making this determination. To be in this category, a requester must not be seeking the requested records for a commercial use. A request for records supporting the news-dissemination function of the requester will not be considered to be for a commercial use.
(7) Review means the examination of a record located in response to a request in order to determine whether any portion of it is exempt from disclosure. It also includes processing any record for disclosure (for example, doing all that is necessary to redact it and prepare it for disclosure). Review costs are recoverable even if a record ultimately is not disclosed. Review time includes time spent considering any formal objection to disclosure made by a business submitter requesting confidential treatment, but does not include time spent resolving general legal or policy issues regarding the application of exemptions.
(8) Search means the process of looking for and retrieving records or information responsive to a request. It includes page-by-page or line-by-line identification of information within records and also includes reasonable efforts to locate and retrieve information from records maintained in electronic form or format. Offices will ensure that searches are done in the most efficient and least expensive manner reasonably possible. For example, offices will not search line-by-line where duplicating an entire document would be quicker and less expensive.
(c) Fees to be charged.
(1) There are four categories of requests. Fees for each of these categories will be charged as follows:
(i) Commercial use requests. A requester seeking access to records for a commercial use will be charged for the time spent searching for the records, reviewing the records for possible disclosure, and for the cost of each page of duplication. The charges for searching for and/or reviewing the records may be charged even if no responsive records are found or if the records are located but are determined to be exempt from disclosure.
(ii) Educational or non-commercial scientific requests. Requesters from educational or scientific institutions, whose purpose is scholarly, noncommercial research, will be charged only for the cost of record duplication, except that the first 100 pages of duplication will be furnished at no charge.
(iii) News media requests. Requesters who are representatives of the news media, and whose purpose in seeking records is noncommercial, will be charged only for the cost of duplication, except that the first 100 pages of duplication will be furnished at no charge.
(iv) All other requests. Requesters not covered by one of the three categories above will be charged for the full cost of search and duplication, except that the first two hours of search time and the first 100 pages of duplication will be furnished without charge. The charges for searching for the records will be assessed even if no responsive records are found or if the records are located but are determined to be exempt from disclosure.
(2) In responding to FOIA requests, the Agency will charge the following fees unless a waiver or reduction of fees has been granted under paragraph (l) of this section:
(A) Search fees will be charged for all requests except for those made by educational institutions, noncommercial scientific institutions, or representatives of the news media subject to the limitations of paragraph (d) of this section. Offices will charge for time spent searching even if no responsive records are found or if the records are located but are determined to be exempt from disclosure.
(B) For searches and retrievals of requested records, either manually or electronically, conducted by clerical personnel, the fee will be $4.00 for each quarter hour of time. For searches and retrievals of requested records, either manually or electronically, requiring the use of professional personnel, the fee will be $7.00 for each quarter hour of time. For searches and retrievals of requested records, either manually or electronically, requiring the use of managerial personnel, the fee will be $10.25 for each quarter hour of time.
(C) When searches and retrievals are conducted by contractors, requesters will be charged for the actual charges up to but not exceeding the rate which would have been charged had EPA employees conducted the search. The costs of actual computer resource usage in connection with such searches will also be charged, to the extent they can be determined.
(ii) Duplication. Duplication fees will be charged to all requesters, subject to the limitations of paragraph (d) of this section. For either a photocopy or a computer-generated printout of a record (no more than one copy of which need be supplied), the fee will be fifteen (15) cents per page. For electronic forms of duplication, other than a computer-generated printout, offices will charge the direct costs of that duplication. Such direct costs will include the costs of the requested electronic medium on which the copy is to be made and the actual operator time and computer resource usage required to produce the copy, to the extent they can be determined.
(iii) Review. Review fees will be charged only to requesters who make a commercial use request. Review fees will be charged only for the initial record review (that is, the review done when an office is deciding whether an exemption applies to a particular record or portion of a record at the initial request level). No charge will be made for review at the administrative appeal level for an exemption already applied. However, records or portions of records withheld under an exemption that is subsequently determined not to apply may be reviewed again to determine whether any other exemption not previously considered applies; the costs of that review will be charged when it is made necessary by a change of circumstances. Review fees will be charged at the same rates as those charged for a search under paragraph (c)(1)(i) of this section.
(d) Limitations on charging fees.
(1) No search or review fees will be charged for requests by educational institutions, noncommercial scientific institutions, or representatives of the news media.
(2) No search fee or review fee will be charged for a quarter-hour period unless more than half of that period is required for search or review.
(3) Except for requesters seeking records for a commercial use, offices will provide without charge:
(i) The first 100 pages of duplication, and
(ii) The first two hours of search.
(4) Whenever a total fee calculated under paragraph (c) of this section is $14.00 or less for any request, no fee will be charged.
(5) The provisions of paragraphs (d)(3) and (4) of this section work together. This means that for requesters other than those seeking records for a commercial use, no fee will be charged unless the cost of search in excess of two hours plus the cost of duplication in excess of 100 pages totals more than $14.00.
(e) Notice of anticipated fees in excess of $25.00. When the Agency determines or estimates that the fees to be charged under this section will amount to more than $25.00, the Agency will notify the requester of the actual or estimated amount of the fees, unless the requester has indicated a willingness to pay fees as high as those anticipated. The amount of $25.00 is cumulative for multi-office requests. If only a portion of the fee can be estimated readily, the Agency will advise the requester that the estimated fee may be only a portion of the total fee. When a requester has been notified that actual or estimated fees will amount to more than $25.00, EPA will do no further work on the request until the requester agrees to pay the anticipated total fee. This time will be excluded from the twenty (20) working day time limit. EPA will memorialize any such agreement in writing. A notice under this paragraph will offer the requester an opportunity to discuss the matter with Agency personnel in order to reformulate the request to meet the requester's needs at a lower cost.
(f) Charges for other services. Apart from the other provisions of this section, when an office chooses as a matter of administrative discretion to provide a special service-such as certifying that records are true copies or sending records by other than ordinary mail-the direct costs of providing the service ordinarily will be charged.
(g) Charging interest. EPA may charge interest on any unpaid bill starting on the 31st day following the date of billing the requester. Interest charges will be assessed at the rate provided in 31 U.S.C. 3717 and will accrue from the date of the billing until payment is received by the Agency. EPA will follow the provisions of the Debt Collection Act of 1982 (Pub. L. 97-365), as amended, and its administrative procedures, including the use of consumer reporting agencies, collection agencies, and offset. No penalty will be assessed against FOIA requesters for exercising their statutory right to ask that a fee be waived or reduced or to dispute a billing. If a fee is in dispute, penalties will be suspended upon notification.
(h) Delinquent requesters. If requesters fail to pay all fees within 60 calendar days of the fees assessment, they will be placed on a delinquency list. Subsequent FOIA requests will not be processed until payment of the overdue fees has first been made.
(i) Aggregating requests. When the Agency reasonably believes that a requester or a group of requesters acting together is attempting to divide a request into a series of requests for the purpose of avoiding fees, the Agency may aggregate those requests and charge accordingly. The Agency may presume that multiple requests of this type made within a 30-day period have been made in order to avoid fees. When requests are separated by a longer period, the Agency will aggregate them only if there exists a solid basis for determining that aggregation is warranted under all the circumstances involved. Multiple requests involving unrelated matters will not be aggregated.
(j) Advance payments.
(1) For requests other than those described in paragraphs (j)(2) and (3) of this section, an office will not require the requester to make an advance payment (that is, a payment made before EPA begins or continues work on a request). Payment owed for work already completed (that is, a prepayment before copies are sent to a requester) is not an advance payment.
(2) When the Agency determines or estimates that a total fee to be charged under this section will be more than $250.00, it may require the requester to make an advance payment of an amount up to the amount of the entire anticipated fee before beginning to process the request, except when it receives a satisfactory assurance of full payment from a requester that has a history of prompt payment.
(3) When a requester has previously failed to pay a properly charged FOIA fee to the Agency within 30 calendar days of the date of billing, the Agency may require the requester to pay the full amount due, plus any applicable interest, and to make an advance payment of the full amount of any anticipated fee, before the Agency begins to process a new request or continues to process a pending request from that requester.
(4) When the Agency requires advance payment or payment due under paragraph (j)(3) of this section, the request will not be considered, and EPA will do no further work on the request until the required payment is made.
(k) Other statutes specifically providing for fees. The fee schedule of this section does not apply to fees charged under any other statute that specifically requires an agency to set and collect fees for particular types of records. When records responsive to requests are maintained for distribution by agencies operating such statutorily based fee schedule programs, EPA will inform requesters of the steps for obtaining records from those sources so that they may do so most economically.
(l) Waiver or reduction of fees.
(1) Records responsive to a request will be furnished without charge or at a charge reduced below that established under paragraph (c) of this section when a FOI Office determines, based on all available information, 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 and is not primarily in the commercial interest of the requester.
(2) To determine whether the first fee waiver requirement is met, FOI Offices will consider the following factors:
(i) The subject of the request: Whether the subject of the requested records concerns “the operations or activities of the government.” The subject of the requested records must concern identifiable operations or activities of the Federal government, with a connection that is direct and clear, not remote.
(ii) The informative value of the information to be disclosed: Whether the disclosure is “likely to contribute” to an understanding of government operations or activities. The disclosable portions of the requested records must be meaningfully informative about government operations or activities in order to be “likely to contribute” to an increased public understanding of those operations or activities. The disclosure of information that already is in the public domain, in either a duplicative or a substantially identical form, would not be as likely to contribute to such understanding when nothing new would be added to the public's understanding.
(iii) The contribution to an understanding of the subject by the public is likely to result from disclosure: Whether disclosure of the requested information will contribute to “public understanding.” The disclosure must contribute to the understanding of a reasonably broad audience of persons interested in the subject, as opposed to the individual understanding of the requester. A requester's expertise in the subject area and ability and intention to effectively convey information to the public will be considered. It will be presumed that a representative of the news media will satisfy this consideration.
(iv) The significance of the contribution to public understanding: Whether the disclosure is likely to contribute “significantly” to public understanding of government operations or activities. The public's understanding of the subject in question, as compared to the level of public understanding existing prior to the disclosure, must be enhanced by the disclosure to a significant extent. FOI Offices will not make value judgments about whether information that would contribute significantly to public understanding of the operations or activities of the government is “important” enough to be made public.
(3) To determine whether the second fee waiver requirement is met, FOI Offices will consider the following factors:
(i) The existence and magnitude of a commercial interest: Whether the requester has a commercial interest that would be furthered by the requested disclosure. FOI Offices will consider any commercial interest of the requester (with reference to the definition of “commercial use request” in paragraph (b)(1) of this section), or of any person on whose behalf the requester may be acting, that would be furthered by the requested disclosure. Requesters will be given an opportunity in the administrative process to provide explanatory information regarding this consideration.
(ii) The primary interest in disclosure: Whether any 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.” A fee waiver or reduction is justified where the public interest standard is satisfied and that public interest is greater in magnitude than that of any identified commercial interest in disclosure. FOI Offices ordinarily will presume that when a news media requester has satisfied the public interest standard, the public interest will be the interest primarily served by disclosure to that requester. Disclosure to data brokers or others who merely compile and market government information for direct economic return will not be presumed to primarily serve the public interest.
(4) When only some of the requested records satisfy the requirements for a waiver of fees, a waiver will be granted for only those records.
(5) Requests for the waiver or reduction of fees must address the factors listed in paragraphs (k) (l)-(3) of this section, insofar as they apply to each request. FOI Offices will exercise their discretion to consider the cost-effectiveness of their investment of administrative resources in deciding whether to grant waivers or reductions of fees and will consult the appropriate EPA offices as needed. Requests for the waiver or reduction of fees must be submitted along with the request.
(6) When a fee waiver request is denied, EPA will do no further work on the request until it receives an assurance of payment or an appeal of the fee waiver adverse determination is made and a final appeal determination is made pursuant to § 2.104(j).