Frequently Asked Questions about Accessing Public Records Maintained by ARB
This page last reviewed August 4, 2011
1. What are Public Records?
2. How Can I Make a Request for Public Records?
3. How Long does it Take to Reply to a Public Records Request?
4. What Will be ARB's Response to a Records Request Include?
5. When May Public Records be Inspected?
6. Is There Any Fee Involved?
7. What Records are Not Open for Inspection?
8. What if I Wish to Challenge the ARB's Determination Not to Disclose Records?
9. How Do I Obtain a Form 700--Statement of Economic Interest?
10. Does the ARB have Sample Letter for Making Public Records Requests?
11. How is ARB in Compliance with the Govt. Modernization, Efficiency, Accountability & Transparency Act?
1. WHAT ARE 'PUBLIC RECORDS'? "Public records" include any writing containing information relating to the conduct of the public's business prepared, owned, used or retained by the ARB regardless of physical form or characteristics.
'Writing' means handwriting, typewriting, printing, Photostatting, photography, and every other means of recording upon any form of communication or representation, including letters, words, pictures, sounds, or symbols or any combination thereof, and all papers, maps, magnetic or paper tapes, photographic films and prints, magnetic or punched cards, discs, drums and other documents.
'Member of the public' means any person, except a member, agency, officer, or employee of a federal, state, or local agency acting within the scope of his or her membership, agency, office, or employment.
2. HOW CAN I MAKE A REQUEST FOR PUBLIC RECORDS? To make a written request, send a letter to: Air Resources Board Public Records Coordinator, Office of Legal Affairs, P.O. Box 2815, Sacramento, CA 95812. The written request need not be in any particular form, but should describe the requested records with sufficient specificity to enable ARB staff to identify and locate the information sought to expedite your request. The request should include a telephone number where you can be reached to discuss the request if we need additional information to locate records for you. A sample California Public Records request letter is provided here for your use.
If you wish to make a public records request in person, please contact our Public Records Coordinator at 916-322-2884 upon your arrival at the Cal/EPA Visitor Center. Our Public Records Coordinator is available to take your request during normal ARB office hours, 8:30 am until 4:30 pm Monday through Friday, excluding state holidays.
3. HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO REPLY TO A PUBLIC RECORDS REQUEST? Most simple requests for public records can typically be fulfilled in less than 10 days. Within 10 days from the date the request is received, the ARB will determine whether to comply with the request and will notify the requester of its determination. If the determination will not be made within 10 days due to unusual circumstances as defined in Government Code 6253.1, the ARB will notify the requesting person of the reasons for the delay and the date when the determination will be issued. No such notice shall specify a date that results in an extension for more than 14 days. The ARB may request additional information if the record's request is not specific enough to permit the identification of the requested records. If the ARB determines to comply with the request, the records will be made available as promptly as is reasonably practicable. While the ARB will disclose identifiable and existing records, the ARB is not required to synthesize, manufacture, or summarize records, i.e., develop new records in response to a request.
4. WHAT WILL ARB'S RESPONSE TO A RECORDS REQUEST INCLUDE? In responding to information requests, the ARB will advise the person submitting the request, by telephone or by mail as appropriate, of (1) the location, approximate date, and time at which the requested public records will be available; (2) if copies of records are requested, the cost of providing such copies; (3) which of the records requested are not subject to disclosure as public records pursuant to applicable provisions of the California Public Records Act. The ARB will determine the form in which any requested computer data will be provided.
5. WHEN MAY PUBLIC RECORDS BE INSPECTED? Public records are open to inspection during ARB office hours, 8:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, excluding state holidays. However, the inspection of public records is subject to a rule of reason as to time and duration and must be consistent with the efficient functioning of our offices and follow the procedures set forth in the "Air Resources Board Public Records Review Policy." The ARB requests any person who wishes to inspect public records to telephone the Office of Legal Affairs 916-322-2884 in advance and make an appointment to inspect the records. It is the policy of the ARB that records not exempt from disclosure by state law will be open for public inspection with the least possible delay and expense to the requesting party. Records subject to exemption may nevertheless be made available for inspection if waiving the exemption will serve the public interest, as determined by the ARB on a case by case basis.
6. IS THERE ANY FEE INVOLVED? A request for a copy of an identifiable public record or information produced must be accompanied by payment of fees to cover the direct costs of duplication, which will be based on a fee of $.10 per standard reproduced page. Duplications of information transferred to a compact disk is $.60 per CD. Other external services, such as copying video and audio cassettes, large graphs, or archived board transcripts, will be made at the direct cost to the requester upon their consent to the ARB.
7. WHAT RECORDS ARE NOT OPEN FOR INSPECTION? In balancing the public's right to access public records with the recognized individual right of privacy and the need for the ARB to be able to competently perform its duties, the Legislature has established certain categories of records which may be exempt from public disclosure.
A complete list of statutory exemptions is found in the California Public Records Act, Government Code Section 6254 and 6275 et seq. Some exemption categories indicate that the ARB is not required to produce records that are:
- Preliminary drafts, notes, or inter-agency or intra-agency memoranda which are not retained by the ARB in the ordinary course of business, provided that the public interest in withholding such records clearly outweighs the public interest in disclosure;
- Records pertaining to pending litigation to which the ARB is a party, or to claims made pursuant to Division 3.6 (commencing with Section 810) until such litigation or claim has been finally adjudicated or otherwise settled;
- Personnel, medical, or similar files, the disclosure of which would constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy;
- Geological and geophysical data, plant production data and similar information relating to utility systems development, or market or crop reports, which are obtained in confidence from any person;
- Records of complaints to or investigations conducted by the ARB for law enforcement or licensing purposes;
- Test questions, scoring keys, and other examination data used to administer a licensing examination, examination for employment, or academic examination;
- Records of which the disclosure is exempt or prohibited pursuant to provisions of federal or state law, including, but not limited to, provisions of the Evidence Code relating to privilege.
- Correspondence of and to the Governor or employees of the Governor's Office or in the custody of or maintained by the Governor's legal affairs secretary.
The ARB also possesses the discretion to claim an exemption from public disclosure for records which do not qualify for a specific exemption under the California Public Records Act but as to which it determines that the public interest served by not making the record public clearly outweighs the public interest served by disclosure, pursuant to Government Code Section 6255. Except as required by law, the ARB does not allow public access to 'trade secrets' as defined in Government Code Section 6254.7(d) and Evidence Code 1060. 'Trade secrets' do not include emissions data since all emissions data and air pollution monitoring data are public records. However, the ARB's determination to disclose a record, which may otherwise be exempt from disclosure, does not constitute a waiver with respect to any other records.
8. WHAT IF I WISH TO CHALLENGE THE ARB'S DETERMINATION NOT TO DISCLOSE RECORDS? If the ARB has declined to provide access to the records that a person has requested because the records are deemed confidential for purposes of Title 17, California Code of Regulations Section 91020 et seq., the requester should follow the process set forth in Title 17, California Code of Regulations Section 91022. (See www.oal.ca.gov for California Code of Regulations). Additionally, the California Public Records Act, Government Code Section 6258, provides that any person may seek injunctive or declarative relief in any court of competent jurisdiction to enforce the right to inspect or to receive a copy of any public record.
9. HOW DO I OBTAIN A FORM 700--STATEMENT OF ECONOMIC INTEREST? Government Code section 81008(a) provides that the Statement of Economic Interest filed by designated employees are public records. The public can inspect these forms during ARB office hours, 8:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, excluding state holidays, by contacting the Public Records Coordinator at 916-322-0362. If the requester desires copies of these forms, Government Code section 81008(a) authorizes a copying fee of ten cents ($0.10) per page and provides that the Filing Officer may charge a retrieval fee not to exceed five dollars ($5) per request for copies of forms that are five or more years old.
Persons with a disability related accommodation need, please access us for assistance or contact the ADA Coordinator at (916) 323-4916. If you need assistance in a language other than English, please access contact the Bilingual Coordinator at (916) 324-5049. TTY/TDD/Speech-to-Speech users may dial 7-1-1 for the California Relay Service.
Air Resources Board
Office of Legal Affairs // Public Records Coordinator
P.O. Box 2815
Sacramento, California 95812
Under the California Public Records Act (Government Code section 6250 and following) and the California Code of Regulations (Title 17, section 91000 and following), I hereby request access to and/or copies of the following documents, which are filed with, retained by, or prepared by the Air Resources Board (ARB):
[Reasonably describe identifiable records to include facility name, location, project, company, individual, address, city, zip code, and/or the type of records required such as enforcement, staff report, etc.]
Please respond within ten (10) calendar days from the date the ARB receives this request as to whether this request specifies identifiable records that are not exempt from disclosure under the California Public Records Act, or are privileged or otherwise confidential, and therefore subject to disclosure. I understand that this time may be extended up to 14 days for unusual circumstances, as provided by California Government Code section 6253, subdivision (c), and that I will be notified of such extension, if any, and the reasons therefore.
I understand that I may obtain copies of the requested documents at a cost of .10 cents per page. I am also aware that if the requested records are too voluminous, the ARB will contact me and provide me access to the records to review and photocopy them with my own equipment and at my own expense.
[Your Name, Address and Phone Number]