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Interior Proposing to Ignore Certain ‘Burdensome’ FOIA Requests

Dec. 28, 2018, 10:44 PM

The Interior Department said it wants the right to ignore some requests from journalists and the public under the Freedom of Information Act, noting a sharp increase in requests during the Trump administration.

The department proposed a rule Dec. 28 that would allow it to not respond to “unreasonably burdensome” requests seeking government documents, including emails, memos, guidance, and other written communications.

Interior said it has seen a 30 percent jump between fiscal years 2016 and 2018 in the number of inquiries and litigation over the past two years. FOIA requests for information from Office of the Secretary have risen 210 percent during that time.

The agency wouldn’t honor any FOIA request that “requires an unreasonably burdensome search or requires the bureau to locate, review, redact, or arrange for inspection of a vast quantity of material,” the proposal said.

Interior had 129 active cases in litigation as of Sept. 30, 2018, compared to six cases at the end of September 2015, and 30 by Sept. 30, 2016.

“The department’s attempts to respond accurately, completely, and in a timely manner to every request have been further hindered by the dramatic increase in litigation,” the agency said in the proposal.

Comments on the proposed rule are due by Jan 28.

The federal government at its website says: “Since 1967, the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) has provided the public the right to request access to records from any federal agency. It is often described as the law that keeps citizens in the know about their government. Federal agencies are required to disclose any information requested under the FOIA unless it falls under one of nine exemptions which protect interests such as personal privacy, national security, and law enforcement.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Rebecca Kern in Washington at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Gregory Henderson at; Steven Gibb at; Susan Bruninga at