A federal court in New York has dismissed a Freedom of Information Act (FOI A) lawsuit seeking U.S. Air Force documents related to fuel contracts involving a coal liquefaction energy project. NRDC v. Wright-Patterson AFB, No. 10-3400 (S.D.N.Y. 8/3/11). On October 2, 2009, plaintiff submitted a FOI A request to defendant concerning a $6 billion “coal-to-liquid facility” for Wellsville, Ohio, proposed by Baard Energy. Baard had sought a loan guarantee from the U.S. Department of Energy and discussed military fuel contracts with the Air Force. The FOI A request sought documents concerning contract discussions. The Air Force’s initial search turned up “no responsive documents,” but further searching discovered a few documents that were released to plaintiff.
The complaint alleged that the Air Force search was inadequate, and the plaintiff sought an order requiring the Air Force to expand its search. Granting the Air Force’s motion for summary judgment, the court ruled that its search was adequate. According to the court, “[t]hat the Air Force confessed to a mistake in its initial declaration and then corrected that mistake does not render the search inadequate.” The court also said, “[a]n agency should be encouraged, rather than discouraged, to reappraise its position, and when appropriate, release documents previously withheld.”