Environmental Science & Technology Online News September 28, 2005 AGENCIES KEEP INFORMATION FROM PRESS Government miserly even about routine data, SEJ survey finds. The U.S. federal government is now requiring reporters to use time- consuming Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to obtain information that had been freely available for years, according to a new report from the Society of Environmental Journalists (SEJ), a membership organization of journalists covering environmental issues. For A Flawed Tool -- Environmental Reporters' Experiences with the Freedom of Information Act, SEJ surveyed 55 members and found that excessive delays in releasing routine information, such as underground mine inspection reports and Superfund cleanup data, are common. The government's ability to respond to the journalists' requests for information under FOIA began to deteriorate after September 11, 2001, SEJ reports. The U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. EPA, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and the Mine Safety and Health Administration are the agencies that most frequently won't release routine data unless a FOIA request has been filed, the SEJ finds. Some FOIA requests take up to one year to fulfill; often, they are stalled while the agency haggles with the journalist over whether the filing fee should be waived, even though the law states that fees shouldn't be levied for reporters. SEJ is calling on Congress to ensure that agencies are complying with FOIA.