Frequently Asked Questions

What is FOIA?

FOIA is the Illinois Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Under the Illinois Freedom of Information Act (5 ILCS 140), records in the possession of public agencies may be accessed by the public upon written request. Pursuant to 5 ILCS 140, Section 2(c), a public record is any records, reports, forms, writings, letters, memoranda, books, papers, maps, photographs, cards, tapes, recordings, electronic data processing records, recorded information and all other documentary materials, regardless of physical form or characteristics, having been prepared, or having been or being used, received, possessed or under the control of any public body. Records that are not subject to release via the FOIA process include confidential and trade secret information. These records are defined in 2 Ill. Adm. Code 1828.202.

What is the FOIA request process?

The Illinois EPA has rules (2 Ill. Adm. Code 1828) regulating the submittal of requests for information pursuant to FOIA. These rules include definitions, procedures for requesting public records, time frame for responding to requests, procedures regarding exemption from public disclosure, appeal rights and a revised fee schedule for the duplication of public records.

How can I submit a FOIA request?

FOIA requests may be submitted by any of the following methods: use of the Internet FOIA web form, Fax, US Mail or special carrier (UPS, FedEx, etc).

Why must I register?

Due to upgrades with the online request form, the Agency now requires FOIA requesters to create an account to submit requests. The reasons for creating an account are:

  • Once you create an account, you will no longer have to enter any requestor information other than your email address and password. This will simplify the process of submitting requests, especially if you frequently submit FOIA requests and/or submit multiple requests on the same day.
  • Having account information reduces the possibility of requestor information being entered incorrectly and delaying FOIA responses due to the inability to send responsive information.
  • NOTE: If multiple people use the same email address, be advised that response letters will be addressed to ONLY the name entered into the account registration. If you need responses sent to specific individuals, they each need to have a unique email address.

To whom do I submit my FOIA request?

You are encouraged to submit your request through the FOIA web form to ensure that your request processed appropriately. FOIA requests that are sent via Fax, U.S. Mail or special carrier and any follow-up inquiries that you may have on the status of your request, on-site record review appointments, record duplication fees or copy contractor questions should be directed to:

Anwar Johnson – FOIA Officer

Illinois EPA FOIA #16
Division of Records Mgmt.
1021 N. Grand Avenue East
P.O. Box 19276
Springfield, Illinois 62794-9276
(217) 558-5101 (Voice)
(217) 782-9290 (Fax)

What information is to be included in my FOIA request?

By using the FOIA web form to submit your request; you will be prompted to include the information necessary to process your request. The online request form will conveniently guide you through completing the request and help to ensure that the request is complete and focused. By using the online form, your request will automatically be directed to the appropriate FOIA sector avoiding delays in mailing and routing paper requests.

If you submit your request by Fax, US Mail or special carrier, the request should state that you are requesting the information under the Freedom of Information Act and must clearly describe the information being sought. Information provided should include facility name, addresses (street address, city, etc.), additional location description, any identification numbers associated with the site (incident number, permit number, Agency ID number, Bureau specific ID numbers, etc.), and any other information that will assist Illinois EPA staff in locating the specific information requested.

Illinois EPA files are very extensive, so it is important that requests be as specific as possible. A focused, specific request will avoid any unnecessary delays and ensure that it can be processed in a timely manner and avoid any unnecessary copying fees. Each request must also include full contact information for the requestor, including name, organization, mailing address, email address, fax number and daytime phone number.

What is a "commercial purpose" FOIA request?

FOIA is the Illinois Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Under the Illinois Freedom of Information Act (5 ILCS 140), “commercial purpose” means the use of any part of a public record or records, or information derived from public records, in any form for sale, resale, or solicitation or advertisement for sales or services. (5 ILCS 140/2(c-10)). The Illinois EPA will not treat requests made by news media or non-profit, scientific, or academic organizations as "commercial purpose" requests when the principal purpose of the request is: (i) to access and disseminate information concerning news and current or passing events; (ii) for articles of opinion or features of interest to the public; or (iii) for the purpose of academic, scientific, or public research or education.

What are examples of requests that may be treated by the Illinois EPA as commercial purpose requests?

Requests for public records, including requests for database information, that are submitted for the purpose of providing the information acquired to third parties for a fee should be designated as commercial purpose requests.

The Illinois EPA also considers commercial purpose requests to include requests for public records for use in performing environmental due diligence or environmental assessment on behalf of a client or customer in connection with a commercial or real estate transaction.

If you have questions concerning whether your request is for a commercial purpose, please refer to the definition provided under FOIA. (5 ILCS 140/2(c-10)).

Will the Illinois EPA respond to "commercial purpose" FOIA requests?

Yes. The Illinois EPA will respond to commercial purpose requests within 21 working days, in the manner provided under FOIA. (5 ILCS 140/3.1; 2 Ill. Admin Code 1828.305). While the time for responding to commercial purpose requests is slightly longer than for non-commercial requests, the Illinois EPA strives to provide records that are subject to public disclosure within a reasonable period considering the size and complexity of the request, and giving priority to records requested for non-commercial purposes. Often, the Illinois EPA is able to respond to commercial purpose requests within the same response time applicable to non-commercial requests.

How can I submit a FOIA request that is for a commercial purpose?

A request that is submitted for a commercial purpose may be submitted to the Illinois EPA in the same manner as a request for a non-commercial purpose. FOIA requests may be submitted by any of the following methods: use of the Internet FOIA web form, Fax, US Mail or special carrier (UPS, FedEx, etc).

You are encouraged to submit your request through the FOIA web form to ensure that your request is processed appropriately. FOIA requests that are sent via Fax, U.S. Mail or special carrier and any follow-up inquiries that you may have on the status of your request, on-site record review appointments, record duplication fees or copy contractor questions should be directed to:

Anwar Johnson – FOIA Officer

Illinois EPA FOIA #16
Division of Records Mgmt.
1021 N. Grand Avenue East
P.O. Box 19276
Springfield, Illinois 62794-9276
(217) 558-5101 (Voice)
(217) 782-9290 (Fax)

What happens after I submit my FOIA request?

All non-commercial requests are generally processed in the order in which they are received. The Agency will respond to non-commercial requests within five working days of receipt of the request. A five-day extension is allowed with written notification to the requestor (2 Ill. Adm. Code 1828.501). The Illinois EPA will respond to commercial requests within 21 working days.

If the requested records are 400 pages, or less, in length, the pages will be copied and mailed to the requestor. If the records are more than 400 pages in length, the requestor will be notified and advised of options for viewing or copying the files. Those options include:

  1. Scheduling an on-site review of the records at Illinois EPA Headquarters in Springfield,
  2. Hiring of a service by the requestor to copy the files, or
  3. Notification of the estimated fees that will be incurred by the requester so that a guarantee of payment can be made by the requester before the Agency copies the files and mails them to the requester (no information will be sent until receipt of payment).

Requestors will also be given the opportunity to narrow the scope of their request so that it includes less than 400 pages of material.

Is there a fee associated with a FOIA request?

If the requested information is 400 pages, or less, the pages will be copied and mailed to the requestor at no cost. Different fees for other media (e.g., microfilm) may also be assessed. If the information requested is greater than 400 pages, there will be a charge of $0.15 per page.

Fees may be waived or reduced under certain circumstances. In general, the waiver or reduction of fees will be granted when it is determined to be in the public interest to do so (2 Ill. Adm. Code, Section 1828.603). If a fee is required, information will not be released until the fee is paid in full.

Is there a process to appeal Agency decisions?

If all or part of the information you requested was denied, the provisions for appealing the Agency’s decision are found at 2 Ill. Adm. Code 1828.505.

All non-commercialrequests are generally processed in the order in which they are received. The Agency will respond to non-commercial requestswithin five working days of receipt of the request. A five-day extension is allowed with written notification to the requestor (2 Ill. Adm. Code 1828.501).  The Illinois EPA will respond to commercial requests within 21 working days.