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Green Delaware Action Alert #83

Freedom of Information Act Victory:

Port Penn, Delaware. January 11, 2001. Green Delaware members and supporters turned out in force, in person and electronically, to oppose a Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) proposal to charge "administrative fees" for access to public records under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). (See Green Delaware Alerts 78 and 79, and our formal comments for background information.) Today DNREC issued a press release describing a new regulation that--IF as represented--concedes all of our essential points. From the release:

"... The regulations, which will be published in the February Register of Regulations and become effective Feb. 12, 2001, have been modified to address concerns raised during the public hearing process.

Among the most significant changes is a waiver from administrative fees to process FOIA requests for individuals and for not-for-profit organizations working in the public interest. Individuals and not-for-profit organizations will also receive a waiver for up to $25 in copying costs. Under the new regulations, copy costs will be 10 cents per page. The Department currently charges 25 cents per page. To be eligible for the waiver from the administrative fees, individuals must submit an affidavit stating that they will not be deriving income from the use of the information.

"The regulations we are adopting reflect the comments we received from the public," said [DNREC Secretary] DiPasquale." "Under the new regulation, individuals and not-for-profit organizations will be paying less to obtain information than under the Department's current policy." "The new regulations also:

    adopt current Departmental policy which increases the amount of information available to the public by defining criteria for determining what can be withheld as confidential;

    require the Department to make every reasonable effort to assist people in identifying records being sought;

    allow for information to be transferred in an electronic format; and

    eliminate Delaware citizenship as a requirement in order to submit a FOIA request;"

This decision is particularly important because DNREC is the first state agency to promulgate formal regulations under the State Freedom of Information Act. Its regs may serve as precedent for other Delaware agencies and departments.

DNREC had held two "workshops" on it's proposed regulation and pointedly disregarded comments. It is probably fair to say that the response to Alerts 78 and 79 made the difference. Those objecting included Common Cause, 7 & 40 Alliance, Surfrider Foundation, Mid-Atlantic Environmental Law Center, Del. Audubon, Sierra Club, New Jersey Environmental Federation, Green Party of Delaware, Essential Action, Bear-Glasgow Council of Civic Organizations, Citizens Coalition for Tax Reform, Wilmington River-City Committee, Stop Metachem Products, Del. Citizens for Clean Air, Princeton Woods-Huntclub Hunt Home Owner Association, Independent Party of Delaware, and the American Civil Liberties Union. Many notable individuals included Rashmi Rangan (Community Reinvestment council), Dr. William Boyer (author of "Governing Delaware"), William and Joan Deaver (Citizens' Coalition), Anna White (international anti-tobacco activist), Rita Farrell (distinguished journalist) Sandy Poppiti (candidate for Mayor of Wilmington), and Phillip Bannowsky ("...one can only conclude that DNREC is deliberately impeding transparency and accountability."). Even the Gannett News ("Stooge") Journal (whose editors hate Green Delaware and black out our work as a matter of course) opposed the proposed regs in an editorial. Some officeholders signaled their willingness to support legislation to turn back DNREC if necessary. If the regulations turn out, on detailed examination, to be as represented we will suggest thanking DNREC officials for doing the right thing, albeit under pressure. Thanks, everybody.

Let us know what you think. 

Email us at 

GreenDel@dca.net

or contact
Alan J. Muller, Exec. Director
P.O. Box 69
Port Penn, DE 19731
302-834-3466 Voice
302-836-3005 FAX

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All work is done by volunteers and members including this website. 

This page was last updated on January 12,  2001.
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