Yesterday afternoon I was surprised to get an email from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with a copy of the requested report attached. The surprising part was not the release of the report itself, it is that it seemed to occur completely separate from the FOIAOnline system.
Earlier in the afternoon, I’d logged in to my FOIAOnline account to see if there were any updates on my outstanding requests and nothing had changed from what I saw before the holidays: my two outstanding requests were months past their expected due dates and still listed as “On Assignment.” I searched for an option to correspond with the agencies for some sort of an update, but could not find an option to do so within the system or any other kind of phone number or email address I could use.
Since the report had appeared in my inbox, I decided to log back into my FOIAOnline account this morning to see if anything had changed. My request with the EPA was still listed as “On Assignment,” but there was a small icon next to the request indicating that I had unread correspondence. I clicked through and saw that this had been added to the record:
I now had the option to correspond with the agency, but the system was still not showing the records that had already been released. As you can see above, I am asking when the records will be available through the system.
We want the records to be available via FOIAOnline because, as we’ve written about before, one of the supposed benefits of the FOIAOnline system is that once an agency using FOIAOnline releases a record, it can easily make it available to the public. This is intended to help cut down on the number of duplicate requests because users are encouraged to search for previously released records before filing their request.
For the time being, I’ve made the released record available here. Hopefully the EPA will make it more broadly available soon.