Freedom of Information Law (FOIL)
In New York State, access to government records is provided under Public Officers Law, Article 6, Sections 84-90, commonly called the Freedom of Information Law or "FOIL." This law enables citizens to view or to request copies of public records. To view or request copies of records held by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) you may send a letter or a completed Records Access Form (PDF) (125 kB) by mail; facsimile, 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. Searching the website and online databases prior to submitting a formal request for that type of information may either satisfy your needs or help to refine your request.
Information about Spill Incidents, Remedial Sites and Bulk Storage
The Department offers access to its cleanup site and spill data through its Environmental Site Database Search. Searching the databases prior to submitting a formal request for that type of information may either satisfy your needs or help to refine your request.
Information on Hazardous Waste Management Facilities
For facilities regulated under the federal and state rules for active hazardous waste management facilities (e.g., RCRA), DEC records are based upon the facility EPA identification numbers. To obtain the EPA ID number, DEC recommends the USEPA "Envirofacts" website. (see link on the "off-site links" section to the right.) This website allows the user to enter an address to determine if it is associated with a hazardous waste management facility. Once an EPA ID number has been obtained, information about the facility can be found at EPA's Enforcement & Compliance History Online (ECHO) web site. (also see link on the "Links Leaving DEC's Website" section to the right of this page. When making a request under FOIL for information 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.
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?
Your request is given a number, entered into our tracking system and then routed to the Region(s) or Division(s) within the Department where the records you seek reside. This number will appear on all correspondence you receive from the Department, and will help us to identify your request.
The Region or Division will then identify and locate the records you have requested. We review them for responsiveness to your request and insure that release of the records complies with the Freedom of Information Law. The materials are photocopied and sections that are determined to be non-releasable are blacked out. Sometimes an answer to a request contains hundreds or thousands of pages, and may take some time to assemble.
How soon can I expect an answer?
The Records Access Officer will mail you an acknowledgment within five business days of receipt of your request. In this acknowledgment, you will be advised that you may expect a response to your request within 20 business days. If you have not received notice of completion of your request within 20 business days, please feel free to contact us.
What items are exempt from disclosure?
Article 6 of the Public Officers Law, Section 87, includes nine conditions for denial of access. Some of the most common requests received by the Department of Environmental Conservation that involve exemption from disclosure are:
- 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.
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 rephotocopied 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.
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.
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.