United States        EPA 100-F-98-01 2
             Environmental Protection    July 1998

             Office Of The Administrator (1105)
SEPA       Your Responsibilities
             As EPA Employees
             Under The Freedom
             Of Information Act


The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) was first enacted in
1966; with major amendments in 1974, 1986, and recently 1996,
which changed the citation of the Act to the "Electronic Freedom
of Information Act Amendments of 1996 (EFOIA)." The
purposes of the Act are to (1) foster democracy by ensuring
public access to agency records and information; (2) improve
public access to agency records and information; (3) ensure
agency compliance with statutory time limits; and (4) maximize  ;
the usefulness of agency records and information collected,
maintained, used, retained, and disseminated by the Federal
Government. The FOIA places responsibilities on the
Environmental Protection Agency for disclosing information that
the public has a "right to know".

Given the Agency's emphasis on open government, it is essential
that each EPA employee/contractor is aware of his/her
responsibilities under the FOIA. It is the Agency's policy to
make the fullest possible disclosure of information without
unjustifiable expense or unnecessary delay to any requester. In
addition, we should ensure information is accurate,  relevant,
timely and complete, avoiding unauthorized disclosures either
orally or in writing.  The Environmental Protection Agency must
be responsive to the public's interest in Government to foster
public trust.


The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. § 552,
provides access to all Federal agency records except those which *
.are protected from release by exemptions (reasons an agency may
deny access to a requester).  The Agency's implementing
regulations for the Freedom of Information Act are located at 40
CFRPart2. The FOIA requires the Government to respond to
requests for information within 20-working days after receipt of

the request. The FOIA cart be used by anyone, regardless of
citizenship, to access government records. The FOIA only applies
to the Executive Branch of the Federal government and includes
information stored in computers as well as paper files.  It does not
apply to Congress, the courts, local governments or private

The public can inspect and copy Public Reading Room records on
demand.  However,  requests for any other Agency records must be
submitted in writing under the provisions of the FOIA.

          s             -     .

Your responsibility is to forward all requests for records to the
Agency of Regional FOI Officer.  If you receive a request for
records via telephone,  you should (1) transfer the caller to the
Agency or Regional FOI Office, or (2)'instruct the caller to submit
a written request to your Agency or Regional FOI Officer and
provide the mailing address  or fax number, if known.       ,

If you are a FOIA Contact/Coordinator,.it is your  responsibility to
ensure that a thorough and adequate search is conducted for the
responsive records and determine if some or all of the information.
can be withheld under  any of the nine statutory (FOIA) exemptions.
Note: President Clinton's "openness initiative" establishes  an
overall "presumption of disclosure" and calls on agencies to
provide discretionary disclosures unless foreseeable harm can be
clearly articulated.  All records that are responsive to a request
should be brought to the attention of the FOIA
Contact/Coordinator.  This will preclude the Agency from  being
held  responsible for improper withholding by a court.   "


Administrative, .technical, and physical safeguards are required
for records, and employees/contractors who handle records must
adhere to rules of conduct to protect information from the
possibility of unwarranted disclosure or access by unauthorized
persons. Agency employees will be held accountable for their
decisions with respect to the release or withholding of
.information, the waiver of payment, and/or the appeal process.

Whenever a court orders  the production of EPA records
improperly withheld from the complainant and issues a written
finding that the circumstances surrounding the withholding raise
questions of whether the responsible employees acted arbitrarily
or capriciously, the Special Counsel of die Merit Systems
Protection Board will promptly initiate a proceeding to determine
whether disciplinary action  is warranted against the employee.
primarily responsible for the withholding.

The Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989 also provides that the
Special Counsel of the Merit Systems Protection Board will
investigate arbitrary and capricious withholding under the  FOIA.
This provision does not require an administrative or court
decision prior to investigation. Sanctions for violation of this
provision may include removal, reduction in grade, debarment
 from Federal employment for a period not to exceed five (5)
years, suspension, reprimand,  or an assessment of a civil penalty
not to exceed $1,000.


If you need assistance in the handling of a FOIA request, contact
your local Regional FOI Office or the Agency FOI Office listed

Agency FOI Office, EPA-HQ           (202) 260-4048
Office of General Counsel             (202) 260-5465

Regional FOI Offices:
      1                             (617)565-1859
      2                             (212) 637-3668
      3                             (215)814-5553
      4                             (404)562-9891
      5                             (312) 886-6686
      6                             (214) 665-6597
      7                             (913)551-7764
      8                             (303)312-6940
      9                             (415)744-1593
      10                            (206)553-8665
Other References:

(1) EPA 1550, Freedom of Information Act Manual
(2) Freedom of Information Act Guide & Privacy Act Overview,
      published by US Dept. of Justice, Office of Information &