How are fees assessed and collected?
Threshold for charging fees.
Except in those situations covered by § 2.16(b)(2), the bureau will not charge you if the fee is $30 or less.
Notice of anticipated fees.
Unless you have been granted a fee waiver or have previously agreed to pay all the fees associated with your request, or the anticipated fee is $30 or less, the bureau will:
Promptly notify you of the estimated costs and ask you to provide written assurance of payment of all fees or fees up to a designated amount; and
Give you an opportunity to modify your request at that time to reduce the fee.
After the bureau begins processing your request, if it finds that the actual cost will exceed the amount you previously agreed to pay, the bureau will:
Stop processing your request;
Promptly notify you of the higher amount and ask you to provide written assurance of payment; and
Give you an opportunity to modify your request to reduce the fee.
The bureau will require advance payment when the estimated fee is over $250 and—
You have never made a FOIA request to DOI requiring you to pay fees; or
You did not pay a previous FOIA fee promptly.
If you have previously failed to pay a fee within 30 calendar days of the date of billing, the bureau will require you to:
Pay the full amount owed plus any applicable interest penalties (see paragraph (g) of this section) and to make an advance payment of the full amount of the estimated fee of the new request; or
Demonstrate that you have, in fact, paid the prior fee.
At the same time the bureau notifies you that an advance payment is due, it will give you an opportunity to modify your request to reduce the fee.
Resolving the fee issue.
The bureau will not start processing your request until the fee issue has been resolved (see §§ 2.8(b) and 2.12(b)). If the bureau seeks clarification from you about a fee issue and does not hear from you within 20 workdays, it will assume that you are no longer interested in this matter and will close the file on your request.
If you are required to pay a fee associated with your request, the bureau that processes your request will send you a bill for collection.
Form of payment.
You should submit a check or money order made payable to the “Department of the Interior” or the bureau furnishing the information. The term United States or the initials “U.S.” should not be included on the check or money order. Where appropriate, the official responsible for handling a request may require that payment by check be made in the form of a certified check. Some bureaus accept payment by credit card. Contact the bureau to determine what forms of payment it accepts.
Failure to pay fees.
The bill for collection or the response letter will include a statement that interest will be charged in accordance with 31 U.S.C. 3717 and implementing regulations, if the fees are not paid within 30 calendar days of the date of the bill. This requirement does not apply if the requester is a State, local, or tribal government. The Debt Collection Improvement Act of 1996 will be used, as appropriate, to collect the fees (see Public Law 104-134).