(a) Fee schedules. Consistent with the limitations set forth in 5 U.S.C. 552(a)(4)(A)(viii), the fees applicable to a request for records pursuant to § 261.11 are set forth in table 1 to this section. These fees cover only the full allowable direct costs of search, duplication, and review. No fees will be charged where the average cost of collecting the fee (calculated at $5.00) exceeds the amount of the fee.
(b) For purposes of computing fees.
(1) Search time includes all time spent looking for material that is responsive to a request, including line-by-line identification of material within documents. Such activity is distinct from “review” of material to determine whether the material is exempt from disclosure.
(2) Direct costs mean those expenditures that the Board actually incurs in searching for, reviewing, and duplicating records in response to a request made under § 261.11, as shown in table 1 to this section.
(3) Duplication refers to the process of making a copy, in any format, of a document.
(4) Review refers to the process of examining documents that have been located as being potentially responsive to a request for records to determine whether any portion of a document is exempt from disclosure. It includes doing all that is necessary to prepare the documents for release, including the redaction of exempt information. It does not include time spent resolving general legal or policy issues regarding the application of exemptions.
(c) Payment procedures. The Board may assume that a person requesting records pursuant to § 261.11 will pay the applicable fees, unless the request includes a limitation on fees to be paid or seeks a waiver or reduction of fees pursuant to paragraph (g) of this section.
(1) Advance notification of fees. If the estimated charges are likely to exceed the amount authorized by the requester, the Office of the Secretary shall notify the requester of the estimated amount. Upon receipt of such notice, the requester may confer with the Office of the Secretary to reformulate the request to lower the costs or may authorize a higher amount. The time period for responding to requests under § 261.12(e) and the processing of the request will be suspended until the requester agrees in writing to pay the applicable fees.
(2) Advance payment. The Board may require advance payment of any fee estimated to exceed $250. The Board may also require full payment in advance where a requester has previously failed to pay a fee in a timely fashion. The time period for responding to a request under § 261.12(e) and the processing of the request will be suspended until the Office of the Secretary receives the required payment.
(3) Late charges. The Board may assess interest charges when fee payment is not made within 30 days of the date on which the billing was sent. Interest is at the rate prescribed in 31 U.S.C. 3717 and accrues from the date of the billing.
(d) Categories of uses. The fees assessed depend upon the intended use for the records requested. In determining which category is appropriate, the Board will look to the intended use set forth in the request for records. Where a requester's description of the use is insufficient to make a determination, the Board may seek additional clarification before categorizing the request.
(1) A commercial use requester is one who requests records for a use or purpose that furthers the commercial, trade, or profit interests of the requester or the person on whose behalf the request is made, which can include furthering those interests through litigation.
(2) Representative of the news media is any person or entity that gathers information of potential interest to a segment of the public, uses its editorial skills to turn the raw materials into a distinct work, and distributes that work to an audience, including organizations that disseminate solely on the internet. The term “news” means information that is about current events or that would be of current interest to the public. A non-affiliated journalist who demonstrates a solid basis for expecting publication through a news media entity, such as a publishing contract or past publication record, will be considered as a representative of the news media.
(3) Educational institution is any school that operates a program of scholarly research. A requester in this fee category must show that the request is made in connection with his or her role at the educational institution. The Board may seek verification from the requester that the request is in furtherance of scholarly research.
(4) Noncommercial scientific institution is an institution that is not operated on a “commercial” basis, as defined in paragraph (d)(1) of this section, and that is operated solely for the purpose of conducting scientific research the results of which are not intended to promote any particular product or industry. A requester in this category must show that the request is authorized by and is made under the auspices of a qualifying institution and that the records are sought to further scientific research and are not for a commercial use.
(5) Fees table. Please refer to table 1 to this section to determine what fees apply for different categories of users.
(e) Nonproductive search. Fees for search and review may be charged even if no responsive documents are located or if the request is denied.
(f) Aggregated requests. A requester may not file multiple requests at the same time, solely in order to avoid payment of fees. If the Board reasonably believes that a requester is separating a single request into a series of requests for the purpose of evading the assessment of fees, the Board may aggregate any such requests and charge accordingly. It is considered reasonable for the Board to presume that multiple requests of this type made within a 30-day period have been made to avoid fees.
(g) Waiver or reduction of fees. A request for a waiver or reduction of the fees, and the justification for the waiver, shall be included with the request for records to which it pertains. If a waiver is requested and the requester has not indicated in writing an agreement to pay the applicable fees if the waiver request is denied, the time for response to the request for documents, as set forth in § 261.12(e), shall not begin until either a waiver has been granted or, if the waiver is denied, until the requester has agreed to pay the applicable fees.
(1) The Board will grant a waiver or reduction of fees where it is determined both 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, and that the disclosure of information is not primarily in the commercial interest of the requester. In making this determination, the Board will consider the following factors:
(i) Whether the subject of the records would shed light on identifiable operations or activities of the government with a connection that is direct and clear, not remote or attenuated; and
(ii) Whether disclosure of the information is likely to contribute significantly to public understanding of those operations or activities. This factor is satisfied when the following criteria are met:
(A) Disclosure of the requested records must be meaningfully informative about government operations or activities. The disclosure of information that already is in the public domain, in either the same or a substantially identical form, would not be meaningfully informative if nothing new would be added to the public's understanding.
(B) 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 as well as the requester's ability and intention to effectively convey information to the public must be considered. The Board will presume that a representative of the news media will satisfy this consideration.
(iii) The disclosure must not be primarily in the commercial interest of the requester. A commercial interest includes any commercial, trade, profit, or litigation interest.
(2) A request for a waiver or reduction of fees must include:
(i) A clear statement of the requester's interest in the documents;
(ii) The use proposed for the documents and whether the requester will derive income or other benefit for such use;
(iii) A statement of how the public will benefit from such use and from the Board's release of the documents;
(iv) A description of the method by which the information will be disseminated to the public; and
(v) If specialized use of the information is contemplated, a statement of the requester's qualifications that are relevant to that use.
(3) The requester has the burden to present evidence or information in support of a request for a waiver or reduction of fees.
(4) The Board will notify the requester of its determination on the request for a waiver or reduction of fees. The requester may appeal a denial in accordance with § 261.14(a).
(5) Where only some of the records to be released satisfy the requirements for a waiver of fees, a waiver must be granted for those records.
(6) A request for a waiver or reduction of fees should be made when the request for records is first submitted to the Board and should address the criteria referenced above. A requester may submit a fee waiver request at a later time so long as the underlying record request is pending or on administrative appeal. When a requester who has committed to pay fees subsequently asks for a waiver of those fees and that waiver is denied, the requester must pay any costs incurred up to the date the fee waiver request was received.
(h) Restrictions on charging fees.
(1) If the Board fails to comply with the FOIA's time limits in which to respond to a request, the Board may not charge search fees, or, in the instances of requests from requesters described in paragraphs (d)(2) through (4) of this section, may not charge duplication fees, except as permitted under paragraphs (h)(2) through (4) of this section.
(2) If the Board determines that unusual circumstances exist, as described in 5 U.S.C. 552(a)(6)(B), and has provided timely written notice to the requester and subsequently responds within the additional 10 working days as provided in § 261.12(e)(3), the Board may charge search fees, or, in the case of requesters described in paragraphs (d)(2) through (4) of this section, may charge duplication fees.
(3) If the Board determines that unusual circumstances exist, as described in 5 U.S.C. 552(a)(6)(B), and more than 5,000 pages are necessary to respond to the request, then the Board may charge search fees, or, in the case of requesters described in paragraphs (d)(2) through (4) of this section, may charge duplication fees, if the Board has:
(i) Provided timely written notice of unusual circumstances to the requester in accordance with the FOIA; and
(ii) Discussed with the requester via written mail, email, or telephone (or made not less than three good-faith attempts to do so) how the requester could effectively limit the scope of the request in accordance with 5 U.S.C. 552(a)(6)(B)(ii).
(4) If a court has determined that exceptional circumstances exist, as defined by the FOIA, a failure to comply with the time limits shall be excused for the length of time provided by the court order.
(i) Employee requests. In connection with any request by an employee, former employee, or applicant for employment, for records for use in prosecuting a grievance or complaint of discrimination against the Board, fees shall be waived where the total charges (including charges for information provided under the Privacy Act of 1974 (5 U.S.C. 552a)) are $50 or less; but the Board may waive fees in excess of that amount.
(j) Special services. The Board may agree to provide, and set fees to recover the costs of, special services not covered by the FOIA, such as certifying records or information and sending records by special methods such as express mail or overnight delivery.
Table 1 to § 261.16 - Fees
|Type of requester||Search costs per hour||Review costs per hour||Duplication costs|
|Commercial||Clerical/Technical staff - $20||Clerical/Technical staff - $20||Photocopy per standard page - .10.|
|Professional/Supervisory staff - $40||Professional/Supervisory staff - $40||Other types of duplication - Direct Costs.|
|Manager/Senior professional staff - $65||Manager/Senior professional staff - $65|
|Computer search, including computer search time, output, operator's salary - Direct Costs|
|Educational; or Non-commercial scientific; or News media||Costs waived||Costs waived||First 100 pages free, then: Photocopy per standard page - .10.
Other types of duplication - Direct Costs.
|All other requesters||First 2 hours free, then: Clerical/Technical staff - $20||Costs waived||First 100 pages free, then: Photocopy per standard page - .10.|
|Professional/Supervisory staff - $40||Other types of duplication - Direct Costs.|
|Manager/Senior professional staff - $65|
|Computer search, including computer search time, output, operator's salary - Direct Costs|