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New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services
PUBLIC GOVERNMENT BUSINESS A to Z LIST

Frequently Asked Questions
Privacy and Freedom of Information Act
 
  • Why is information about my company available to the public?
    Most documents received by state agencies are public records and are subject to review by the public under RSA 91-A, Access to Public Records and Meetings. Environmental compliance has a direct impact on everyone and DES strongly supports the public's right to know. In order to facilitate public access, DES is undertaking an effort to make more public records available electronically, either through dedicated computer terminals in the lobby of 29 Hazen Drive or via the Internet.
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  • How can I make my company's information confidential?
    Persons who submit information to DES may assert that some of the information submitted should not be made public. Such information is limited to that which constitutes confidential business information ("CBI"), which is exempt under RSA 91-A:5, IV from being released. CBI can be defined as commercial or financial information such as a formula, pattern, device, or compilation of information which is used in the business of the person making the claim of confidentiality, which is protected from disclosure by that person and which gives that person an advantage over competitors who do not know of its use. Another term often used interchangeably with CBI is "trade secrets".

    Certain information cannot, by law, be protected as CBI. For example, Env-Wm 213.03(c) prohibits a claim of confidentiality from being made for copies of hazardous waste manifests. Information such as the name and address of a person applying for a permit or the location at which regulated activities occur also will not be protected by DES as confidential.

    Several programs have rules that specify how a claim of confidentiality must be made. Env-C 208, Claims of Confidentiality, applies to any program that does not have program specific rules on this topic. All of the rules generally provide that a person submitting information believed to be CBI must assert the claim at the time the information is originally submitted to DES, by stamping or otherwise marking each page of the information as "confidential" or "confidential business information". The claim must be limited to the information that actually constitutes CBI, not a whole document or even a whole page unless all of the information in the document or on the page is CBI. If the claim is not made when the information is originally submitted, the information will be treated as public information. The rules also provide that if DES receives a request for information that has been designated as CBI, DES will review the information to determine whether it is in fact exempt from disclosure under RSA 91-A. DES may ask the Attorney General's Office to assist with the determination. If DES concludes that the information is not CBI, it will notify the person who made the claim and give the person an opportunity to contest the decision prior to releasing the information to the public.

    Due to the importance of openness in government, the exceptions to RSA 91-A are interpreted narrowly, and the person asserting the claim of confidentiality bears the burden of showing that particular information should not be made public.

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NH Department of Environmental Services | 29 Hazen Drive | PO Box 95 | Concord, NH 03302-0095
(603) 271-3503 | TDD Access: Relay NH 1-800-735-2964 | Hours: M-F, 8am-4pm

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