FIA-19-0017 - In the Matter of Essential Information, Inc

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On May 29, 2019, the Office of Hearings and Appeals (OHA) granted in part and denied in part a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) appeal filed on behalf of Essential Information, Inc. (Appellant) from a final determination issued by the Department of Energy's Office of Public Information (OPI). Appellant's FOIA request sought all correspondence in the possession of three DOE officials containing the search terms "@HuntonAK.com" or "@ewsa-global.com." OPI provided Appellant with responsive communications related to a privately-organized energy workshop the DOE officials attended, but redacted a URL link and password for accessing presentations made at the workshop from one of the e-mails pursuant to Exemption 5. On appeal, Appellant asserted that OPI had not conducted an adequate search because it had not accessed the workshop materials via the URL link and had improperly withheld the workshop materials pursuant to Exemption 5 because the workshop materials had been sent to private parties. OHA found that OPI's redaction of the URL link and password did not render its search inadequate. However, OHA determined that the contents of an e-mail from a private event organizer to governmental and non-governmental attendees were not inter-agency or intra-agency records exempt from disclosure under Exemption 5. Accordingly, OHA granted Appellant's appeal with respect to OPI's redaction of the URL link and password pursuant to Exemption 5, denied Appellant's appeal with respect to the adequacy of OPI's search for responsive records, and remanded the matter to OPI for further processing. OHA Case No. FIA-19-0017.