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ProPublica tells us that even in its waning months, the Bush administration has been rewriting rules to make it harder and more expensive for the public to get certain information out of some federal agencies.
One of those agencies is the Department of Energy. ProPublica says the DOE is trying to eliminate a "public interest balancing test" that allows it "to release documents that would otherwise be exempt from disclosure" if the department believes disclosure would serve the public interest. Why? DOE says it wants out from under the "additional burden" -- i.e., the bother. And in a real nickel-and-dime move -- but then, these are tough times -- the DOE has jacked up the fee for FOIA-requested documents to 20 cents a photocopied page from 5.
At the same time, the Securities and Exchange Commission has proposed a rule that would dramatically bump up fees for processing records. "The new rule would bump the lowest category to $26 per hour from $16. The highest level would go from $28 per hour to as high as $70 per hour." And the Department of Education has just raised the bar for accessing student records.
ProPublica is a national not-for-profit investigative news desk. Here's what I wrote about it in October 2007, before it opened for business.