FOIA Update: Appeal Hearing Delayed for Fifth Time

The December appeal hearing concerning the Department of State’s response to my 2012 FOIA request for Keystone XL GIS data never took place… nor did November’s, nor October’s. As you may recall, in June of 2013 the DOS responded that they had neither requested nor received GIS data for the Keystone XL pipeline. Next, my appeal was scheduled to be heard in January, which quietly expires this weekend. Now in our sixth month of delays, the 21-day appeal response time limit stipulated by the FOIA statute has long passed.

According to the DOS, appeal cases are internally reviewed prior to being brought before the appeal panel. The appeal panel is made up of outside consultants who are paid to hear the appeals. Due to budgetary constraints, I was told, the DOS has not been able to bring the panel together (as you may recall this time period coincides with the government shutdown and other such austerity). So it has appeared that throughout the Fall my case has not gone to appeal, not because it has not been reviewed, but because simply the panel has not met.

Yet, this line of explanation evaporated yesterday when a DOS official responded to my latest inquiry. “Your request is still under review and did not make it through in time for the Appeals Review Panel. The new estimated completion date is May 2014.”

As the DOS is currently working on a long-anticipated, revised environmental impact statement for the Keystone XL, one would think they could readily determine whether they had the GIS data or not. It’s not as if they have to look very far to find it. In the least, it’s a phone call to TransCanada away. As I doubt I’ll be seeing this data before the release of the revised EIS, those eagerly awaiting the revised report shouldn’t hold their breath.

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