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FIA-14-0027 - In the Matter of Southeastern Legal Foundation

On May 19, 2014, the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Hearings and Appeals (OHA) granted in part and denied in all other respects a Freedom of Information Act Appeal (FOIA) filed by Southeastern Legal Foundation (Appellant) of a determination issued by the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA).  In its request, the Appellant challenged the adequacy of NNSA’s search for responsive documents because it did not receive any research data generated by Dr. Benjamin Santer and it did not believe no actions were taken on his research or the research of others into anthropogenic climate change.  NNSA released 41 documents to the Appellant, which consisted of final papers written by Dr. Santer.  OHA denied this portion of the Appeal for two reasons.  First, Dr. Santer does not generate any research data, but rather he collects data or other researchers and analyzes that.  Second, the Appellant had previously told NNSA that the final papers would be considered as fully responsive to its request.  In denying the second part of the Appeal, as applied to NNSA, OHA found that NNSA and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory do not take any actions on the climate change research.  NNSA suggested that the Office of Biologic and Environmental Research would be the office that takes any action on the research.  We contacted the Office of Information Resources (OIR), the office which originally received the request and forwarded it to NNSA, to determine which, if any offices, were searched at DOE Headquarters.  OIR informed us that both the Office of Science (SC) and the Office of Policy and International Affairs (PI) were asked to conduct a search prior to the request being sent to NNSA.  Both offices responded that they do not promulgate regulations, therefore, they had no responsive documents.  We asked that both those offices be searched again for “any actions” taken on the research.  At the time of this Decision, both offices were still searching.  Therefore, OHA granted the request in part and remanded the matter to OIR.  OHA denied the remainder of the Appeal.