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FIA-13-0005 - In the Matter of Cause of Action

On April 11, 2013, the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Hearings and Appeals (OHA) granted in part a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Appeal filed by the Sierra Club (Appellant) of a determination issued by the Loan Guaranty Program Office (LGPO). In its request, the Appellant asked for all documents generated since January 2009 related to or referring to requests made to the IRS for information about whether an applicant for a loan under any DOE program has a delinquent tax account. LGPO released documents to the Appellant but withheld some information under Exemptions 4 and 6. In addition, LGPO sent some documents to IRS for its review. The Appellant challenged the withholdings and the adequacy of LGPO’s search. OHA found that the search LGPO conducted was reasonably calculated to uncover responsive information and provided a sufficient explanation for why the information may not exist. In addition, OHA found that LGPO properly withhold information under Exemption 6 and almost all the information withheld under Exemption 4. OHA determined that one Tax Identification Number of a successful loan applicant should have been released. Therefore, OHA granted the Appeal as to the successful loan applicant’s Tax Identification Number, but denied the remainder of the Appeal.