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FOIL Appeal Determination for 05-14-7A (Joseph J. Heath)

July 12, 2006

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
Assistant Commissioner
Office of Hearings and Mediation Services, 14th Floor
625 Broadway, Albany, New York 12233-1550
Phone:(518) 402-8537 FAX: (518) 402-9037
Website: www.dec.state.ny.us

July 12, 2006

Joseph J. Heath, Esq.
716 East Washington Street
Suite 104
Syracuse, New York 13210-1502
Attn: Thane Joyal, Esq.

Re: FOIL Appeal No. 05-14-7A

Dear Mr. Heath:

This is in response to your appeal, pursuant to the New York State Freedom of Information Law ("FOIL", codified at §§ 84-90 of the Public Officers Law ["POL"]), from the denial of access to records pertaining to the preparation of (a) § 303(d) lists for 1998 and 2002 for Onondaga Lake, and (b) total maximum daily loads ("TMDLs") for ammonia and phosphorus for Onondaga Lake.

As you indicated in your correspondence dated February 1, 2006, after an exchange of telephone calls among Steven Eidt of the Region 7 office of the Department of Environmental Conservation ("Department"), Thane Joyal, Esq. of your office and myself, Ms. Joyal reviewed records relating to the preparation of the TDMLs on December 16, 2005 at the Department's Region 7 office. Subsequently, Mr. Steven Eidt telecopied a list of records that had been withheld to your office.

By your February 1, 2006 correspondence, you requested that the Department:

"(1) review its records to determine whether additional responsive documents exist; and

(2) provide access to all responsive documents; and

(3) if access to any requested records is denied pursuant to Public Officers Law § 87(2), a written list of such records stating the grounds for denial of access for each record withheld."

Subsequent to your letter, Mr. Jeff Myers, Director of the Department's Bureau of Water Assessment and Management, communicated with your office regarding records on the listing/ delisting of Onondaga Lake and its tributaries with respect to the § 303(d) lists. By e-mail communication, Mr. Myers provided information on the draft 2006 § 303(d) list, and the 1998 and 2002 listings. By e-mail dated February 28, 2006, Mr. Myers advised that a search of Department records did not identify any additional records subject to your FOIL request, other than those attached to his earlier e-mail communication.

Department staff has also advised me that no additional records exist that are responsive to your FOIL request, and that access to all responsive records has either been provided or, based on Department staff's review of applicable FOIL exemptions, withheld.

On this appeal, I have reviewed the withheld records that Department staff provided to me. Attached is a listing of the records that were withheld. The listing includes a description of the type of record, date of the record, and the number of pages. Please note that several of the records, as I received them, included other records as attachments. The final column of the listing notes whether, pursuant to my review of the records on this appeal, a FOIL exemption(s) applies or if the record (or portions thereof) is releaseable.

As you know, exemptions from FOIL are set forth at POL § 87(2). Based on a review of the records, I have determined that two FOIL exemptions, POL § 87(2)(a) and POL § 87(2)(g), are applicable to most of the records that were originally withheld.

POL § 87(2)(a) exempts those records that are specifically exempted from disclosure by state or federal statute. Certain of the records subject to this FOIL appeal represent communications and analysis by Department attorneys or attorneys from the Attorney General's office in their representation of the Department and are subject to the attorney-client privilege (see CPLR 4503[a]) and/or constitute attorney work product (see CPLR 3101[c]). Accordingly, these are exempt from disclosure.

POL § 87(2)(g) authorizes the denial of access to records or portions thereof that are intra-agency or inter-agency materials which are not (i) statistical or factual tabulations or data, (ii) instructions to staff that affect the public, (iii) final agency policy or determinations, or (iv) external audits, including but not limited to audits performed by the comptroller and the federal government (see POL § 87[2][g][i]-[iv]).

Intra-agency and inter-agency materials that consist of opinions and recommendations of agency staff are exempted from FOIL "to protect the deliberative process of the government by ensuring that persons in an advisory role would be able to express their opinions freely to agency decision makers (citation omitted)" (Matter of Xerox Corp. v. Town of Webster, 65 NY2d 131, 132 [1985]; see also New York Times Co. v. City of New York Fire Department, 4 NY3d 477, 488 [2005] ["The point of the intra-agency exception is to permit people within an agency to exchange opinions, advice and criticism freely and frankly"]). Accordingly, various of the records (including but not limited to e-mails and other communications, memoranda, notes, and drafts) are exempt from disclosure pursuant to the intra-agency/inter-agency exemption.

As noted in the attached listing, many of the records which are otherwise releasable contain notes or comments of Department staff which are exempt pursuant POL § 87(2)(g). With respect to those records, the notes and comments would be redacted.

The records or portions of records that are being made available pursuant to the appeal consist of 200 pages. If you wish to be provided with copies, please send a check to Kimberly Sarbo of this office, made payable to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation in the amount of $50.00 (200 pages at $0.25 per page), within thirty (30) days of the date of this letter. Alternatively, if you would prefer to review these documents at our office, please contact Kimberly Sarbo at (518) 402-8537 within thirty (30) days of the date of this letter.

This letter is the final determination of the Department of Environmental Conservation. You have the right to seek review of this determination pursuant to Article 78 of the Civil Practice Law and Rules, and Public Officers Law § 89(4)(b). In any further contact with this office, please refer to FOIL Appeal No. 05-14-7A.

Sincerely,

/s/
Louis A. Alexander
Assistant Commissioner for Hearings
and Mediation Services

cc: Robert Freeman, Executive Director,
Committee on Open Government

FOIL APPEAL No. 05-14-7A
(Joseph J. Heath, Esq.)
Type of Record Date Agency File No./Pages POL Exemption
Notes 05Dec85 11C - 1 page POL 87(2)(g)
Notes/draft on ammonia readings with attached data 24May93 11C - 5 pages POL 87(2)(g) - 3 pages; release 2 pages of data (note: data in draft form/no indication that had been verified)
Notes 01Sep93 14C - 1 page POL 87(2)(g)
Notes (unsigned) unknown 14C - 1 page POL 87(2)(g)
Notes ammonia limits 04Oct93 14C - 1 page POL 87(2)(g)
Notes - revised ammonia limits 23Sep93 14C - 2 pages POL 87(2)(g)
Faxed copy of news article w/notes 24May95 11B - 1 page Release article, redact notes per POL 87(2)(g)
Notes - storm event calculations and data charts unknown 10 - 25 pages Release 13 pages (data), redact notes per POL 87(2)(g); withhold remaining pages per POL 87(2)(g)
Notes - total urban storm load 11Feb92 10 - 5 pages POL 87(2)(g)
Handwritten letter (draft) with attached letter from Ray 27May87 8 - 6 pages Withhold draft per POL 87(2)(g); release 4 page Ray letter
Draft proposal/response, calculations, notes and roster of attendees at June 3, 1997 meeting 11Jun97 8B - 10 pages Withhold 8 pages per POL 87(2)(g); release 2 page 6/3/97 attendee roster
Notes - TMDL meeting 03Jun97 8B - 1 page POL 87(2)(g)
Assessment of seasonal diversion proposal w/notes 16Jun97 8B - 13 pages POL 87(2)(g)
Notes Nov-97 2A or 2B - 7 pages POL 87(2)(g)
Draft w/notes unknown 1F - 8 pages POL 87(2)(g)
Draft Ammonia TMDL and two one-page transmittal memos Mar-7-97 1E - 17 pages POL 87(2)(g)
Draft Ammonia TMDL 30May97 1E - 15 pages POL 87(2)(g)
Notes re:"P" guidance values unknown 1D - 2 pages POL 87(2)(g)
Information prepared by Department attorney 18Feb97 2B - 2 pages POL 87(2)(g); POL 87(2)(a)
Internal email unknown 2B - 1 page POL 87(2)(g)
Water Quality Based Effluent Limitation Considerations (draft) 07May96 1F - 3 pages POL 87(2)(g) - 2 pages; Release 1 page chart but redact notes per POL 87(2)(g)
Internal email 20Mar97 1F - 2 pages POL 87(2)(g)
Internal communication 09Jul98 1B- 2 pages POL 87(2)(g)
Memo 04Jan96 1A - 1 page POL 87(2)(g)
Memo 03Jan96 1A - 2 pages POL 87(2)(g)
Memo 26Apr95 1A - 3 pages POL 87(2)(g)
Draft responsiveness summary 26Nov97 15 - 21 pages POL 87(2)(g)
Draft responsiveness summary 15Dec97 15 - 21 pages POL 87(2)(g)
Draft responsiveness summary w/notes 25Feb98 15 - 20 pages POL 87(2)(g)
Memo with draft responsiveness summary 04Dec97 15 - 22 pages POL 87(2)(g)
Responsiveness summary (draft) w/notes 27Feb98 15 - 18 pages POL 87(2)(g)
Review paper Jan-03 15 - 5 pages POL 87(2)(g)
Internal emails with attached Post-Standard news article 12-31-01, 12-24-01, and 11-21-01 with atts 15 - 10 pages POL 87(2)(g), but release 3 page newspaper article with notes redacted per POL 87(2)(g)
3/4/87 memo with 2 attached 3/16/93 memos, and various notes 04Mar87 14A - 9 pages POL 87(2)(g)
Paper by Effler with notes and internal transmittal Apr-7-93 14A - 15 pages Withhold 1 page internal transmittal per POL 87(2)(g); release Effler paper with notes redacted per POL 87(2)(g)
Draft comments w/notes various dates 1A - 11 pages POL 87(2)(g)
Memo 15May95 1A - 4 pages POL 87(2)(g)
Memo 27Dec95 1A - 1 page POL 87(2)(g)
Transmittal memo with attached 8-page letter from Whitelaw & Fangio, with notes 22Apr98 1B - 9 pages Withhold 1 page per POL 87(2)(g); release 8 pages letter with notes redacted per POL 87(2)(g)
Draft letter & related material unknown 1D - 6 pages POL 87(2)(g)
Draft TDML comments w/notes unknown 2A- 7 pages POL 87(2)(g)
Notes 11/18/85? 3A - 1 page POL 87(2)(g)
Memo 29Oct85 3A - 4 pages POL 87(2)(g)
Memo 03May85 3A - 1 page POL 87(2)(g)
Memo w/notes 15Apr85 3A - 2 pages POL 87(2)(g)
Memo 01Apr85 3A - 2 pages POL 87(2)(g)
Memo 20Dec84 3A - 3 pages POL 87(2)(g)
Draft Memo w/notes 22Dec93 3B - 4 pages POL 87(2)(g)
Draft internal memo w/notes and attached 12/21/93 two-page letter from Onondaga County w/notes 24Dec93 3B -4 pages Withhold memo per POL 87(2)(g); release two-page Onondaga County letter but redact notes per POL 87(2)(g)
Memo 22Dec93 3B - 1 page POL 87(2)(g)
Sensitivity analyses letter 10Dec93 3B - 2 pages Release
Interoffice transmittal between government attorneys (Ward-Barbanes) with attached materials from Onondaga County 03Dec93 3B - 13 pages Withhold transmittal page per POL 87(2)(g); release 12 pages
Letter and memo from Randy Ott w/DEC staff notes 24Nov93 3B - 6 pages Release except redact notes per POL 87(2)(g)
Notes re: modeling 18Nov93 3B - 2 pages POL 87(2)(g)
Ward letter to Onondaga County and 11/10/93 memo 10Nov93 3B - 5 pages Release Ward letter (3 pages); withhold internal memo per POL 87(2)(g)
Duplicate of previous 11/10/93 memo 10Nov93 3B - 2 pages POL 87(2)(g)
County response to government attorney letter w/ notes from government attorney, with attached 10/28/93 letter from Onondaga County Department of Drainage and Sanitation to County Attorney 29Oct93 3B - 7 pages Release except redact notes per POL 87(2)(g)
Memo from Ralph Manna, with attached 4 page outside correspondence 22Oct93 3B - 7 pages Withhold 3 page memo per POL 87(2)(g); release outside correspondence (4 pages)
Notes 06Oct93 3B - 1 page POL 87(2)(g)
Memo, with attached 6/25/93 memo unknown 3B - 10 pages POL 87(2)(g)
Memo 17Sep93 3B - 2 pages POL 87(2)(g)
Transmittal letter to government attorney with attached 9/15/93 memo and 8/1/93 memo 14Sep93 3B - 10 pages POL 87(2)(g); POL 87(2)(a)
Memo w/notes from government attorney 04Aug93 3B - 2 pages POL 87(2)(g); POL 87(2)(a)
Memo 10Mar93 3B - 6 pages POL 87(2)(g)
Draft final report w/internal memo 25Oct85 3B - 8 pages POL 87(2)(g)
Draft response w/notes 20Jun85 3B - 9 pages POL 87(2)(g)
UFI response to DEC comments w/notes 23May85 3B - 10 pages Release but redact notes per POL 87(2)(g)
Memo with notes 23Apr85 3B - 7 pages POL 87(2)(g)
Memo w/notes, with attached 12/20/84 memo 03Jan84 3B - 6 pages POL 87(2)(g)
Copy of letter from R. Manna to J. Karanik re:SEQR 08Feb94 3B - 2 pages Release
Transmittal from Randy Ott to Jay Bloomfield, with attached memo from Craig Smithgall to Jay Bloomfield, with notes 03Dec93 3B - 11 pages Release but redact notes POL 87(2)(g)
Notes 04Jan94 6A - 2 pages POL 87(2)(g)
Memo with attached two-page 12/21/93 letter from J. Karanik of County of Onondaga Department of Drainage and Sanitation 24Dec93 6A - 4 pages Withhold memo POL 87(2)(g); Release 2 page letter
Notes 03Jan94 6A - 5 pages POL 87(2)(g)
Notes 10Jan94 6A - 8 pages POL 87(2)(g)
Internal summary 02Nov93 6A - 1 page POL 87(2)(g)
Notes, with one-page chart 07May96 6A - 3 pages POL 87(2)(g) but release one-page chart
Internal email 30Dec96 6B - 1 page POL 87(2)(g)
Memo to government attorney 16Mar95 7 - 2 pages POL 87(2)(a) POL 87(2)(g)
Notes 12May97 8B - 4 pages POL 87(2)(g)
Notes 06Jun97 8B - 10 pages POL 87(2)(g)
Notes 30Jun97 8B - 2 pages POL 87(2)(g)
Draft Diagram unknown 8B - 1 page POL 87(2)(g)
Notes 17May96 8B - 3 pages POL 87(2)(g)
Notes, with attached transmittal from governmental attorney Doug Ward 1-25-94 (notes) & 1-26-94 trans-mittal 7- 11 pages POL 87(2)(a) POL 87(2)(g)
Draft affidavit with notes 27Jan94 7 - 27 pages POL 87(2)(a) POL 87(2)(g)
Draft Order to Show Cause and TRO and Draft Memorandum of Law w/notes 20Jan94 7 - 32 pages POL 87(2)(a) POL 87(2)(g)
Draft affidavit 09Feb94 7 - 15 pages POL 87(2)(a) POL 87(2)(g)
Memo, with notes 23Feb88 9- 16 pages POL 87(2)(g)
Notes unknown 9 - 1 page POL 87(2)(g)
Notes unknown 9 - 1 page POL 87(2)(g)
Draft revision calculations 18Sep98 9B - 3 pages POL 87(2)(g)
Memo, with notes 22Jan92 10 - 3 pages POL 87(2)(g)
Memo, with notes 04Feb92 10 - 5 pages POL 87(2)(g)
Memo, with notes 22Mar89 10 - 23 pages POL 87(2)(g)
Memo 21May96 11C - 2 pages POL 87(2)(g)
DEC attorney notes 08May96 11C - 2 pages POL 87(2)(a) POL 87(2)(g)
Memo 03May96 11C - 2 pages POL 87(2)(g)
Memo 10Sep93 11C - 3 pages POL 87(2)(g)
Memo 07May93 11C - 1 page POL 87(2)(g)
Memo 18Oct91 11C - 1 page POL 87(2)(g)
Memo, w/attached chart and attached notes 04Jun96 11C - 3 pages POL 87(2)(g) but release one-page chart
Notes unknown 11C - 1 page POL 87(2)(g)
Notes unknown 11C - 2 pages POL 87(2)(g)
Draft summary 20Jul95 11C - 4 pages POL 87(2)(g)
Memo w/notes, and related attachments 08Sep95 11C - 17 pages POL 87(2)(g)
Memo 17Jul95 11C - 4 pages POL 87(2)(g)
Notes Apr-1-97 11C - 1 page POL 87(2)(g)
ASLF letter to EPA w/ DEC staff notes 16May97 11C - 25 pages Release, except redact notes per POL 87(2)(g)
Draft options memo w/notes 06Mar97 11C - 22 pages POL 87(2)(g)
Memo w/DEC notes from Robert Hennigan to Members of the Advisory Committee for the Onondaga Lake and Watershed Management Project 01Aug85 11C - 8 pages Release, except redact notes per POL 87(2)(g)
Memo 07May96 12A - 2 pages POL 87(2)(g)
Memo 15May96 12A - 13 pages POL 87(2)(g)
Memo 31Oct94 12B - 30 pages POL 87(2)(g)
Memo on responsiveness summaryw/notes 15Nov93 12 - 2 pages POL 87(2)(g)
Transmittal to DEC attorney 03Dec93 9 pages POL 87(2)(g)
Memo 08Feb00 3 pages POL 87(2)(g)
Memo 26Jan99 1 page POL 87(2)(g)
Comments on proposed modification to SPDES permit, with transmittal letter and DEC staff notes 25Jun99 12 pages Release, except redact notes per POL 87(2)(g)
Comments on proposed modification to SPDES permit, with transmittal letter and DEC staff notes 25Jun99 15 pages Release, except redact notes per POL 87(2)(g)
BS&K comments on proposed modification to SPDES permit, with DEC staff notes 25Jun99 2 pages Release
ASLF comments on proposed modification to SPDES permit, with DEC staff notes 25Jun99 2 pages Release, except redact notes per POL 87(2)(g)
Ohl comments on proposed modification to SPDES permit 25Jun99 1 page Release
Hughes comments on proposed modification to SPDES permit 25Jun99 3 pages Release
Effler comments on proposed modification to SPDES permit, with manuscript and DEC staff notes unknown 21 pages Release, except redact notes per POL 87(2)(g)
Memo 15Aug85 2 pages POL 87(2)(g)
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