September 26, 2017
U.S. Department of the Interior
Office of the Secretary
1849 C Street, NW
Washington, DC 20240
Re: FOIA Request
Dear Ms. Julka
On behalf of Taxpayers for Common Sense (“TCS”), and pursuant to the relevant provisions of the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”), 5 U.S.C. § 552, and Department of the Interior (“DOI”) regulations, 43 C.F.R. Part 2, I hereby request the following records in possession of the DOI Office of the Executive Secretariat and Regulatory Affairs (“OES”) Committee Management Program:
- All records in the possession of OES and Committee Management Program documents related to individuals considered for appointment to the newly established Royalty Policy Committee.
- A full list of all individuals who were nominated and or considered for appointment to the Royalty Policy Committee including information pertaining to who they were referred by, the qualifications of the individual under consideration, their work history, and any potential conflicts of interest as identified by the DOI, OES, and the Committee Management Program.
If it is your position that records exist that are responsive to this request, but that those records (or portions of those records) are exempt from disclosure pursuant to 5 U.S.C. §552(b), please identify the records that are being withheld and state the basis for the denial for each record being withheld. In addition, please provide “any reasonably segregable portion of” the records.
Request for Expedited Processing
TCS also requests expedited processing of this request for records pursuant to 43 C.F.R. §
2.20. TCS is an organization that is primarily engaged in the dissemination of information concerning wasteful government spending. TCS has a compelling need for expediting processing in light of the forthcoming meeting of the Royalty Policy Committee on October 4, 2017 to advise DOI on its leasing and royalty practices.
On March 29, 2017, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke signed a charter establishing the Royalty Policy Committee. The Royalty Policy Committee was formed “to ensure the public receives the full value of the natural resources produced from Federal lands,” as noted in the charter. The subjects that will be under discussion by the committee and its resulting advice for various DOI agencies will directly affect taxpayers’ returns from public lands. TCS requests the expedited processing of this FOIA request so that it may ascertain the scope of the candidates considered by DOI and verify that an appropriate breadth of candidates from varying backgrounds and disciplines were considered for appointment to the committee, in the best interest of taxpayers. It is urgent that TCS receive the information requested in a timely manner so that it can evaluate the documents pertaining to Royalty Policy Committee candidates and appointees and inform the public on whether the interests of the Royalty Policy Committee members or any portion thereof reflect the interest of taxpayers. If the information is not received expeditiously, the public will be deprived of the appropriate context to assess the Royalty Policy Committee’s recommendations on improving current DOI leasing and royalty practices.
Pursuant to the requirement of 43 C.F.R. § 2.20(b)(2), a statement by the requestor certifying that the foregoing information is true is included at the end of this request.
Request for Waiver of Fees
TCS is a nonprofit organization under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. TCS is a non-partisan budget watchdog serving as an independent voice for American taxpayers. For more than two decades, TCS has worked to achieve a government that spends taxpayer dollars responsibly and operates within its means. Because the records sought by TCS will be used to contribute significantly to public understanding of the operations and activities of the Department of the Interior, TCS requests a waiver of fees pursuant to 43 C.F.R. § 2.19(b)(1).
TCS has been researching the fiscal impacts of various policies related to the collection of royalties from publicly owned resources on federal lands, and in particular the leasing and royalty rates charged by the Department of the Interior. TCS is specifically concerned about the impacts to the federal Treasury from royalty and leasing policies. Numerous materials on the TCS website, including the report, “Federal Coal Leasing: Fair Market Value and a Fair Return for the American Taxpayer,” reflect TCS’s ongoing commitment to educating the public on these issues. See http://www.taxpayer.net/issues/energy. TCS will disseminate the requested information to the public through its website and through other media as part of its public education campaign concerning coal leasing.
TCS requests that all fees incurred by this request be waived pursuant to 43 C.F.R. § 2.45. This fee waiver is in the public interest because furnishing the requested records is likely to contribute significantly to public understanding of the operations or activities of the government and is not in TCS’s commercial interest. (As a nonprofit organization TCS has no commercial interest in the requested records.) The requested documents will provide critical insight for taxpayers into the individuals advising DOI on its royalty and leasing practices. This will greatly assist the public in understanding the extent to which ongoing reform efforts will ensure the recovery of adequate royalties for federal resources.
Accordingly, we ask that you waive all fees for locating and duplicating the requested records. If, however, a waiver is not granted, we are willing to pay up to $250 for the purposes of fulfilling this request. Please advise us pursuant to 43 C.F.R. § 2.4 7 with the reasons for the denial. In addition, please provide an estimate of the amount of any fees that will be incurred for any search and/or duplication, beyond the first 100 pages of duplication and two hours of search time that are to be provided free of charge pursuant to 43 C.F.R. § 2.39(a), before such search and/or duplication is carried out.
We will expect a response within twenty (20) working days of receipt of this request, as provided by 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(6)(A)(i) and 43 C.F.R. § 2.16(a). If you have any questions about this request, please contact me at:
Senior Program Director
Taxpayers for Common Sense
651 Pennsylvania Avenue, SE
Washington, DC 20003
202-546-8500 x 112
Thank you very much for your attention to this matter.
Senior Program Director
Taxpayers for Common Sense
I declare under penalty of perjury that the foregoing is true and correct to the best of my knowledge and belief. Executed on September 27, 2017.