§ 7.31 - What time limits apply to DOT with respect to initial determinations?
(a) In general. (1) DOT ordinarily responds to requests according to their order of receipt.
(2) DOT makes an initial determination whether to release a record requested pursuant to subpart C of this Part within twenty Federal working days after the request is received by the appropriate FOIA Requester Service Center designated in § 7.27, except that DOT may extend this time limit by up to ten Federal working days, or longer, in accordance with § 7.34. In addition, DOT may toll this time limit one time to seek additional information needed to clarify the request and as often as necessary to clarify fee issues with the requester (see § 7.35).
(3) DOT notifies the requester of DOT's initial determination. If DOT decides to grant the request in full or in part, DOT makes the record (or the granted part) available as promptly as possible and provides the requester with written notification of DOT's determination, the reasons for the determination, and the right of the requester to seek assistance from the FOIA Public Liaison. If DOT denies the request in full or in part, because the record (or the denied part) is subject to an exemption, is not within DOT's custody and control, or was not located following a reasonable search, DOT notifies the requester of the denial in writing and includes in the notice the reason for the determination, the right of the requester to appeal the determination, the name and title of each individual responsible for the initial determination to deny the request, and the requester's right to seek dispute resolution services from the FOIA Public Liaison or the Office of Government Information Services. The denial letter includes an estimate of the volume of records or information withheld, in number of pages or other reasonable form of estimation. This estimate does not need to be provided if the volume is otherwise indicated through deletions on records disclosed in part, or if providing an estimate would harm an interest protected by an applicable exemption. DOT marks or annotates records disclosed in part to show both the amount and location of the information deleted whenever practicable (see § 7.23(d)).
(b) Multi-track processing of initial requests. (1) A DOT component may use two or more processing tracks by distinguishing between simple and more complex requests based on the amount of work and/or time needed to process the request, or based on the number of pages involved.
(2) A DOT component using multi-track processing may provide requesters in its slower track(s) with an opportunity to limit the scope of their requests in order to qualify for faster processing within the specified limits of the component's faster track(s). In that event, the component contacts the requester either by telephone, letter, facsimile, or electronic mail, whichever is most efficient in each case.
(3) Upon receipt of a request that will take longer than ten days to process, a DOT component shall assign an individualized tracking number to the request and notify the requester of the assigned number. Requesters may contact the appropriate DOT component FOIA Requester Service Center to determine the status of the request.
(c) Expedited processing of initial requests. (1) Requests are processed out of order and given expedited treatment whenever a compelling need is demonstrated and DOT determines that the compelling need involves:
(i) Circumstances in which the lack of expedited treatment could reasonably be expected to pose an imminent threat to the life or physical safety of an individual; or
(ii) A request made by a person primarily engaged in disseminating information, with a time urgency to inform the public of actual or alleged Federal Government activity.
(2) A request for expedited processing may be made at the time of the initial request for records or at any later time. For a prompt determination, the request for expedited processing must be received by the FOIA office for the component that maintains the records requested, as identified in § 7.27.
(3) A requester who seeks expedited processing must submit a statement, certified to be true and correct to the best of that individual's knowledge and belief, explaining in detail the basis for requesting expedited processing. A requester within the category in paragraph (c)(1)(ii) of this section must establish a particular urgency to inform the public about the Government activity involved in the request, beyond the public's right to know about Government activity generally.
(4) Within ten calendar days of receipt of a request for expedited processing, the proper component decides whether to grant it and notifies the requester of the decision. If DOT grants a request for expedited treatment, the request is given priority and is processed as soon as practicable. If DOT denies a request for expedited processing, any appeal of that denial is acted on expeditiously.