FIA-18-0019 - In the Matter of Investigation Team

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On April 18, 2018, the Department of Energy's (DOE) Office of Hearings and Appeals (OHA) granted in part a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Appeal filed by the Investigation Team (Appellant) from a determination issued by the Office of Public Information (OPI). In its FOIA request, the Appellant sought records relating to Elon Musk, Tesla Motors, SolarCity and SpaceX. When filing the request, the Appellant sought expedited processing and a fee waiver.  In response to the FOIA request, the DOE's Office of Public Information (OPI) denied the Appellant's request for expedited processing. OPI also categorized the Appellant as a "commercial" requester and denied the Appellant's fee waiver request. In its Appeal, the Appellant challenged OPI's denial of expedited processing as well as OPI's fee category determination and the denial of a fee waiver. OHA found that OPI had properly denied the request for expedited processing because the Appellant had not demonstrated a "compelling need" for the requested information, as required by the FOIA. OHA further found that that the proper fee category for the Appellant was unclear and that OPI should seek additional clarification from the requester. As to the fee waiver request, OHA found that OPI should review the information it obtains from the requester to determine whether a fee waiver would be appropriate. Accordingly, OHA remanded the matter to OPI. OHA Case No. FIA-18-001.