Federal information access gets an upgrade

Vol. 44 No. 4

Stephen Gidiere and Tal Simpson practice environmental and natural resources law in Balch & Bingham LLP’s Birmingham, Alabama office. Mr. Gidiere is the author of the Section’s book The Federal Information Manual, a guide to FOIA and other federal information laws, the second edition of which is in the works.

Two new government websites launched in Fall 2012 aim to improve public access to federal information. FOIAonline is a web tool for submitting, tracking, and reviewing prior Freedom of Information Act requests. Congress.gov, still in beta, will replace the Library of Congress’s existing congressional information system, Thomas.


Several federal agencies have jointly launched a new website for processing, tracking, and storing the results of FOIA requests. Spearheaded by an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) team and the Office of Government Information Services, the effort to create the new site began as a sort of inversion of Regulations.gov, which EPA administers. On Regulations.gov, agencies post proposed rules and accept public comments; on FOIAonline, they accept FOIA requests from the public and produce responsive documents. The site has been live since October 1, 2012, and current participating agencies include EPA, the Department of Commerce, Department of the Treasury, Federal Labor Relations Authority, Merit Systems Protection Board, and National Archives and Records Administration. The extent of each agency’s participation varies somewhat.

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