On September 23, 2022 the Office of Hearings and Appeals (OHA) denied the Freedom of Information Appeal filed by Michael Ravnitzky (Appellant) from a final determination letter (Determination Letter) issued by the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL/UT-Battelle) on September 9, 2022). On Appeal, the Appellant argued that the agency failed to conduct an adequate search.
On September 8, 2022, ORNL sent the Appellant a final Determination Letter informing the Appellant of the searched conducted and the results they yielded. In a timely filed appeal, the Appellant argued that ORNL/UT-Battelle should have conducted a proper search. The Appellant cited a press release that indicated Les Price had chaired the Red Team reviews of [US International Fusion Energy Organization (US ITER)] program. The Appellant also asserted that the response was too specific, and that if a particularly restrictive search was performed, then the search would naturally fail to yield and meaningful results. Finally, the Appellant asserted that the search may have been conducted by an office that was not entirely objective.
The press release to which the Appellant referred was not released by the DOE, and a press release that was issued by ORNL on the matter did not mention Les Price. Further, it was ascertained that the assertion that the search was not conducted by an objective office may have been the result of a misunderstanding.
Regarding the searches that were conducted, OHA learned that searches had been conducted in the iDOCS system, where these documents are customarily maintained, as well as SharePoint and relevant group folders.
OHA's review of the search shows ORNL/UT-Battelle "conduct[ed] a search reasonably calculated to uncover all relevant documents." Truitt, 897 F.2d at 542. The facts indicate that ORNL/UT-Battelle made a good faith effort, using a thorough list of search terms and searching all offices where records could reasonably be expected to be found. Accordingly, we find ORNL /UT-Battelle's search was reasonable and used appropriate methods. (OHA Case No. FIA-22-0028)