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(a) Purpose. This section establishes the standards and procedures by which the Agency will solicit and receive certain confidential commercial or financial information, as that term is used in the Freedom of Information Act (5 U.S.C. 552(b)(4)), categorically referred to below as “confidential business information,” and the manner in which the Agency will protect such information from public disclosure in accordance with 5 U.S.C. 552(b)(4), when it is submitted in accordance with paragraph (f) of this section.
(b) Confidential class determinations. The Administrator may make and issue a class determination, which shall pertain to a specified rulemaking and shall clearly identify categories of information included within the class. Information submitted under the class determination and conforming to the characteristics of the class will be treated as presumptively confidential and accorded the non-disclosure protections described in paragraph (h) of this section. The Administrator may establish a class upon finding that:
(1) FMCSA seeks to obtain related items of commercial or financial information as described in 5 U.S.C. 552(b)(4);
(2) The class determination would facilitate the voluntary submission of information necessary to inform the rulemaking; and
(3) One or more characteristics common to each item of information in the class will necessarily result in identical treatment, and that it is therefore appropriate to treat all such items as a class under this section.
(c) Frequency and content of class determinations. Class determinations may be defined by the Administrator on an as needed basis and shall include substantive criteria established in accordance with the informational needs of the particular rulemaking.
(d) Modification or amendment. The Administrator may amend or modify any class determination established under this section.
(e) Publication. Once the Administrator has made a class determination, the Agency shall publish the class determination in the Federal Register. If the Administrator amends or modifies any class determination established and published in accordance with this section, such changes will be published in the Federal Register.
(f) Submission of confidential business information. Persons wishing to submit information in accordance with a class determination established under authority of this section must complete and sign, under penalties of perjury, an Affidavit in Support of Request for Confidentiality (Affidavit), as set forth in Appendix A to this part. In the event that information is submitted under more than one designated class, each submission must include an executed Affidavit, asserting, among other factors, that:
(1) The information is submitted to the Agency voluntarily;
(2) The information is of a type customarily not disclosed to the public by the submitter;
(3) The information, to the best of the submitter’s knowledge and belief, has not been disclosed to the public; and
(4) The information satisfies the substantive criteria for the class as established by the Administrator under authority of paragraph (b) of this section.
(g) Submission of comments not containing confidential business information. If a submitter elects to provide commentary in addition to the confidential business information submitted under one or more classes designated under this section, any portion of a submitter’s additional commentary that does not contain confidential business information shall be filed in the public docket in the form and manner set forth in the rulemaking.
(h) Non-disclosure of confidential business information. In accordance with the provisions of 5 U.S.C. 552(b)(4), information submitted under this section shall not be available for inspection in the public docket, nor shall such information be provided by the Agency in response to any request for the information submitted to the Agency under 5 U.S.C. 552, except as provided for in paragraph (j) of this section.
(1) If a requester brings suit to compel the disclosure of information submitted under this section, the Agency shall promptly notify the submitter.
(2) The submitter may be joined as a necessary party in any suit brought against the Department of Transportation or FMCSA for non-disclosure.
(i) Use of confidential business information. To the extent that the Agency relies upon confidential business information submitted under paragraph (f) of this section in formulating a particular rule, the Agency shall, in the preamble of the final rule, disclose its receipt of such information under a designated class and shall describe the information in a de-identified form, including by summary, aggregation or other means, as necessary, to sufficiently explain the Agency’s reasoning while maintaining the confidentiality of the information.
(j) Disclosure of confidential business information. (1) If the Administrator finds that information submitted to the Agency under paragraph (f) of this section fails to satisfy the requirements set forth in paragraphs (f)(2), (3) or (4), or that the Affidavit accompanying the information submitted under paragraph (f) is false or misleading in any material respect, the Agency shall disclose the non-conforming information by placing it in the public docket for the particular rulemaking, within 20 days following written notice to the submitter of its decision to do so, except that:
(i) Submitters may, within 10 days of receipt of such notice, provide the Agency with a written statement explaining why the submitted information conforms to the requirements of paragraph (f) of this section and thus, should not be disclosed. The Agency shall continue to withhold the information from the public docket until completing its review of the submitter’s statement. The Agency may, following timely review of the submitter’s statement, determine that disclosure is not required under this paragraph. In any event, the Agency shall advise the submitter in writing of its decision concerning whether the information shall be disclosed in the public docket.
(2) Notice of the Agency’s intention to disclose the submitted information is not required if the Administrator determines that the entity submitting such information has authorized its disclosure to the public.
(3) If, at the time the Administrator determines that the submitted information fails to comply with the requirements set forth in paragraph (f), such information is the subject of a FOIA request, the requirements of 49 CFR 7.29 shall apply.
[80 FR 32864, June 10, 2015; 84 FR 51434, Sept. 30, 2019]