Personnel security hearings. Under DOE's personnel security program, OHA conducts administrative hearings concerning individuals' eligibility for access to classified information or special nuclear material. By the end of FY 2013, our average time for issuing a decision after the receipt of the hearing transcript stood at 21days, its lowest level in any of the last ten years, over 27 percent below our average over the last five years, and over 60 percent below our average for FY2004-2013. For the fourth year in a row, we had no cases older than180 days in our end-of-year inventory.
Whistleblower cases. Under the DOE Contractor Employee Protection Program, OHA conducts investigations and hearings, and considers appeals concerning whistleblower claims filed by DOE contractor employees. We continued processing these cases in a timely fashion in FY 2013. Average processing time was over 33 percent below the average for the last ten years and over 4 percent below our average for fiscal years 2009 through 2013, and no case in our end-of-year inventory was older than 180 days. Also in FY 2013, our office considered three whistleblower complaints filed under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and Privacy Act Appeals. OHA considers appeals of agency denials of requests for information under the FOIA and Privacy Act and issues final agency decisions. In FY 2013, though receiving a higher-than-average number of appeals, our FOIA and Privacy Act average case-processing time was 14 days, a figure below our most recent five-year average and less than half that of our average from FY 2004 through 2013.
Exceptions and Special Redress. OHA considers petitions for special redress, as well as requests for relief from certain regulatory requirements. In FY 2013, OHA again granted exception relief from DOE lighting efficiency standards to producers of energy efficient fluorescent lamps, due to recent policies adopted by the government of China that significandy limited the availability of rare earth elements used in the production of the lamps. In the exceptions area, average case-processing time remained at historically low levels.
Alternative Dispute Resolution. OHA's Office of Conflict Prevention and Resolution (OCPR) serves as a resource to all DOE components and contractors to explore efficient and cost-effective means of preventing conflicts and resolving disputes without the fortnalities or excessive costs of litigation. OCPR directs the DOE Headquarters lvfediation Progran. In FY 2013, a record 40 mediation case referrals were received by OCPR; a settlement rate of 44% was achieved in those cases that were mediated.