The FOIA generally requires that requesters pay fees for processing their requests. If costs associated with the processing of a FOIA request are $15.00 or less, no fees are charged. Each FOIA request is reviewed for the purpose of placing a requester in one of four fee categories described below.
Your FOIA request should address your willingness to pay fees, offering a limit, or request a waiver of fees (using the outline below). All issues concerning fees associated with the processing of your request need to be resolved before the processing of your request can begin.
The Act provides that "documents shall be furnished without any charge or a reduced charge below the fees established under clause (ii) if 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 is not primarily in the commercial interest of the requester. See 5 USC(a)(4)(a)(iii).
The DOE/NNSA has implemented this statutory standard for fee waivers or reduced fees in its FOIA regulation at 10 CFR, Part 1004.9(a). The regulation set forth the following factors that are considered by the agency in applying the criteria:
Per 10 CFR, Part 1004.9a(a)(8)(i), a requester who satisfies the four factors of the public interest prong must then address the second prong by showing that disclosure of the information is not primarily in his or her commercial interest.
In order to explain these requirements in greater detail, the Department of Justice issued a fee waiver policy guidance on April 2, 1987. These guidelines were referenced in the court case McClellan Ecological Supage Situation v. Carlucci, 835 F. 2d, 1282, 1286 (9th Cir. 1987). We also use these guidelines in making fee waiver determinations.