Freedom of Information Law (FOIL)
In New York State, the Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) governs public access to agency records.
Requesting DEC Records
To view or request copies of records held by DEC you may send a letter or a completed Records Access Form (PDF) (128 kB) by mail; fax, or e-mail to:
Records Access Officer
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
Albany, NY 12233-1500
phone: (518) 402-9522
fax: (518) 402-9018
Please be as specific as possible when requesting records, so that we may easily identify which records maintained by the Department are responsive to your request.
Records Available Online
Many of the Department's records are available online. Search DEC's website and online databases prior to submitting a formal request. This may either satisfy your needs or help to refine your request.
Information about Spill Incidents, Remedial Sites and Bulk Storage
DEC's Environmental Site Database Search can provide information on:
- Oil and chemical spills
- Sites being addressed under DEC's Superfund, Brownfield Cleanup, Environmental Restoration and Voluntary Cleanup programs
- Records of petroleum and chemical bulk storage or major oil storage facilities, and
- Resource Conservation and Recovery Act Subpart-C Corrective Action Program records.
Information on Hazardous Waste Management Facilities
DEC uses EPA identification numbers to locate records on hazardous waste management facilities. To find the EPA ID number, visit the EPA "Envirofacts" website. (See link on the "Links Leaving DEC's Website" at right) and enter an address to determine if it is associated with a hazardous waste management facility.
Information about facilities with EPA ID numbers can be found at EPA's Enforcement & Compliance History Online (ECHO) web site. (See link on the "Links Leaving DEC's Website" at right).
When making a FOIL request for information on these facilities maintained by the NYSDEC, please provide the EPA ID number.
Popular DEC Databases
The Department's Office of Communication Services has compiled a list of Quick Links to Popular Database-driven Applications.
NY Open Data Portal
Many DEC datasets can be accessed through the NY Open Data Portal.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
- What happens to my request when you receive it?
- How soon can I expect an answer?
- What items are exempt from disclosure?
- May I see the documents before I decide if I want copies?
- What is the fee?
- What if I want to appeal a determination that some or all of the records that I have requested are being withheld?
What happens to my request when you receive it?
When we receive your request:
- Your request is given a number, entered into our tracking system. This number appears on all correspondence you receive from the Department, and helps us to identify your request.
- It is then routed to the DEC region(s) or division(s) that may have the responsive record(s).
- The region or division will search for and identify the records requested.
- The records are reviewed for responsiveness to your request and legal privileges.
- The materials are photocopied and sections that are not subject to release may be redacted.
How soon can I expect an answer?
FOIL requires the Records Access Officer to acknowledge a request for records within five business days. Within 20 business days from the date of the acknowledgment, you can expect a response to your request which either provides access to the records, denies access, or states when the Department will make a determination on the request
Sometimes an answer to a request contains hundreds or thousands of pages, and may take some time to assemble. If you have not received a response your request within 20 business days, please feel free to contact us.
What items are exempt from disclosure?
Below are some of the most common types of records that can be withheld:
- Anything that may result in an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy. For example: home telephone numbers, home addresses, and Social Security numbers;
- Trade secrets - records that if released could cause harm to the competitive position of a business or enterprise;
- Information gathered for law enforcement purposes which, if disclosed, could interfere with due process;
- Lists of names and addresses which would be used for commercial or fund-raising activities.
See Article 6 of the Public Officers Law, Section 87 for the statutory authority for denial of access to certain types of records.
May I see the documents before I decide if I want copies?
Yes. When you send your request to us, you may specify if you would like to inspect the documents. We will contact you to schedule an appointment to come to our offices and view the materials. Arrangements will be made if you desire photocopies of documents. You will be charged for any copies of documents that had portions blacked out and re-photocopied before your review, even if you elect not to take them.
What is the fee?
You will be charged 25 cents per page for photocopying or the actual cost of reproduction. Please make your check payable to New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and record the tracking number in the memo section of your check. When available, electronic copies will be provided at no cost.
What if I want to appeal a determination that some or all of the records that I have requested are being withheld?
Where the Department does not timely respond to a FOIL request, or if a request for access to records has been denied in whole or in part, an appeal may be filed with the Department's FOIL Appeals Officer.
FOIL Appeals Officer
Office of General Counsel
NYS Department of Environmental Conservation
625 Broadway, 14th Floor
Albany, New York 12233-1500
Once an appeal is received, the FOIL Appeals Officer will mail an acknowledgment of its receipt to the individual filing the appeal. The FOIL Appeals Officer will conduct an independent review of the records that were withheld.
The FOIL Appeals Officer will issue a final determination. If the determination is to release records, the individual filing the appeal will be notified of the cost of reproducing the records and, alternatively that he or she may review the records at the Office of General Counsel.
The FOIL Appeals Officer's determination is a final agency action. Pursuant to Public Officers Law § 89(4)(b), the determination may be challenged in state supreme court by the filing of a Civil Practice Law and Rules ("CPLR") Article 78 petition.
Appeals with respect to records in the custody of the Office of Hearings and Mediation Services are subject to special procedures. Please contact the Assistant Commissioner of the Office of Hearings and Mediation Services at 518-402-8537 for FOIL appeal procedures.
Last Update January 7, 2015
More about Freedom of Information Law (FOIL):
- Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) Language - Statutory language of the Freedom of Information Law
- The FOIL Appeals Process - Appeals from Freedom of Information Law requests made to Department Staff.
- FOIL Appeal Determinations - FOIL appeal determinations by year.
- DEC Records List - The Department's subject matter list briefly describes the various types of records maintained by DEC.
- Indian Nation Fee-to-Trust Land Acquisition Applications - Applications to the Bureau of Indian Affairs from the Oneida and Cayuga Indian Nations of New York.