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Electronic Code of Federal Regulations
Title 49: Transportation
Subpart D—Procedures for Appealing Decisions Not To Disclose Records and/or Waive Fees
(a) Each officer or employee of DOT who, upon a request by a member of the public for a record under this part, makes a determination that the record is not to be disclosed, either because it is subject to an exemption or not in DOT's custody and control, will give a written statement of the reasons for that determination to the person making the request; and indicate the names and titles or positions of each person responsible for the initial determination not to comply with such request, and the availability of an appeal within DOT. The denial letter will include an estimate of the volume of records or information withheld, in number of pages or in some other reasonable form of estimation. This estimate does not need to be provided if the volume is otherwise indicated through deletions on records disclosed in part, or if providing an estimate would harm an interest protected by an applicable exemption. Records disclosed in part will be marked or annotated to show both the amount and the location of the information deleted whenever practicable.
(b) When a request for a waiver of fees pursuant to §7.44 has been denied in whole or in part, the requestor may appeal the denial.
(c) Any person to whom a record has not been made available within the time limits established by §7.31 and any person who has been given a determination pursuant to paragraph (a) of this section that a record will not be disclosed may appeal to the responsible DOT official. Any person who has not received an initial determination on his or her request within the time limits established by §7.31 can seek immediate judicial review, which may be sought without the need first to submit an administrative appeal. Judicial review may be sought in the United States District Court for the judicial district in which the requestor resides or has his or her principal place of business, the judicial district in which the records are located, or in the District of Columbia. A determination that a record will not be disclosed and/or that a request for a fee waiver or reduction will not be granted does not constitute final agency action for the purposes of judicial review unless:
(1) It was made by the responsible DOT official; or
(2) The applicable time limit has passed without a determination on the initial request or the appeal, as the case may be, having been made.
(d) Each appeal must be made in writing within thirty days from the date of receipt of the original denial and should include the DOT file or reference number assigned to the request and all information and arguments relied upon by the person making the request. (Appeals may be submitted via facsimile and conventional mail, but not via electronic mail.) Such letter should indicate that it is an appeal from a denial of a request made under FOIA. The envelope in which a mailed appeal is sent should be prominently marked: “FOIA Appeal.” If these requirements are not met, the twenty-day limit described in §7.32 will not begin to run until the appeal has been identified, or would have been identified with the exercise of due diligence, by a DOT employee as an appeal under FOIA, and has been received by the appropriate office.
(e) Whenever the responsible DOT official determines it necessary, he/she may require the requestor to furnish additional information, or proof of factual allegations, and may order other proceedings appropriate in the circumstances; in any case in which a request or order is made, DOT's time for responding ceases to count while the requestor responds to the request or order. The decision of the responsible DOT official as to the availability of the record or the appropriateness of a fee waiver or reduction constitutes final agency action for the purpose of judicial review.
(f) The decision of the responsible DOT official not to disclose a record under this part or not to grant a request for a fee waiver or reduction is considered to be a denial by the Secretary for the purpose of 5 U.S.C. 552(a)(4)(B).
(g) Any final determination by the head of an DOT component not to disclose a record under this part, or not to grant a request for a fee waiver or reduction, is subject to concurrence by a representative of the General Counsel.
(h) Upon a determination that an appeal will be denied, the requestor will be informed in writing of the reasons for the denial of the request and the names and titles or positions of each person responsible for the determination, and that judicial review of the determination is available in the United States District Court for the judicial district in which the requestor resides or has his or her principal place of business, the judicial district in which the requested records are located, or the District of Columbia.