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FIA-13-0027 - In the Matter of Torres Consulting & Law Group, LLC

On June 10, 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 Torres Consulting & Law Group, LLC, (Appellant) of a determination issued by the Loan Guarantee Program Office (LGPO).  In its request, the Appellant asked for information relating to the Abengoa Mohave construction project.  LGPO released documents to the Appellant but withheld information under Exemptions 4 and 6 of the FOIA.  The Appellant claimed that LGPO improperly withheld the wage rates under Exemption 4.  We disagreed stating that release of the financial information could cause the contractors substantial competitive harm by giving their competitors an undue advantage in bidding on future contracts.  The Appellant also claimed that LGPO should not have relied on Exemption 6 to withhold the names, addresses, and license numbers of the contractors.  We agreed but noted that the information was properly withheld under Exemption 4, and so we did not remand the matter.  The Appellant also argued that once the contractor employees’ names, addresses, and other identifying information was withheld, those employees no longer had a privacy interest in the deduction, contribution, and payment information.  We agreed and remanded the matter for a new determination either releasing the information or justifying its withholding under a different provision of the FOIA.  The Appellant also claimed that LGPO could not use Exemption 6 to withhold the hours worked, once other identifying information had been withheld.  While we agreed with this assessment, we noted that LGPO also used Exemption 4 to properly withhold the information.  Therefore, OHA granted the Appeal as to the information found on Appeal and denied the remainder of the Appeal.