On January 19 2023, the Office of Hearings and Appeals (OHA) denied the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) appeal filed by Karla Todd (Appellant). The Appellant appealed a final determination issued by the Department of Energy's Office of Public Information, which indicated a search was conducted by the Office of Environment, Health, Safety and Security (EHSS) and the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), and neither office located responsive documents.

In the appeal, the Appellant argued the DOE's search was not adequate because it was not calculated to discover documents more responsive to the request and should have included additional offices and entities, such as its national laboratories. The Appellant also argued she was improperly categorized as a "commercial" requester, because she sought records about herself, and her request was not for commercial gain or financial benefit.

Upon review of the Appellant's request, OHA found the Appellant's FOIA request, after being revised, was 18 pages in length, and sought all records on human research experiments, animal research, and military/intelligence activities in which she may have been involved, within the DOE, located anywhere within at least four states, and spanning twenty years.

OHA determined the DOE's search was adequate because: 1) it properly relied upon the personal knowledge and expertise of its agency officials to narrow the scope of their search and determine where responsive records would likely be found, and 2) the Appellant's request was very broad, did not identify specific DOE offices to be searched. OHA also determined the DOE classified the Appellant as an "other requester," the Appellant's designation as a "commercial" requester in the determination letter was a drafting error, and the error was harmless because she was not charged any fees associated with processing her request. (OHA Case No. FIA-23-0006)