By Jenny Potter
Have you ever tried to look for a government record but not been sure where or how to find it? Utah’s Government Records Access and Management Act (GRAMA), enacted in 1991, gives you the ability to review or make copies of public records. The law improves government transparency by making it easier for you to find the information you’re looking for, whether it’s for a permit for a facility near your house or more in-depth information about an environmental issue. It’s a high priority for all of us here at the Department of Environmental Quality to assist you when you submit a GRAMA request, and we have been working hard in recent years to make more of our documents available online.
So, what exactly constitutes a public record? A lot of things, actually. A record can be a book, letter, document, map, plan, photograph, file, or electronic data, to name just a few. You have the right to inspect records, and a record is public unless otherwise expressly provided by statue.
Many, but not all, DEQ records can be found through our online Interactive Map or EZ Records Search. The DEQ Interactive Map lets you locate documents associated with particular sites. You can also view a wide array of documents using the EZ Records Search, including permits, compliance reports, sampling reports, monitoring, corrective actions, and site assessments.
If you want to view a document that isn’t located in our Interactive Map or EZ Records Search repositories, you will need to make a written request that includes your name, mailing address, daytime phone number, and email address. You can request to view the records in person, copy them, or ask for a database search. We’ve streamlined the process by making the request form available online. You’ll need to make an appointment with us to view your requested files during business hours.
We charge a reasonable fee to cover the cost of providing these records. The more specific your request, the less time it takes for us to locate the record, and the lower the cost. If you make your own copies, the cost goes down from 25 cents per page to 5 cents per page. Each division has a document review area with a copy machine, so you can look through the records you’ve requested and copy the ones you need.
DEQ has trained record officers that work in each division and one officer who covers agency-wide requests. If you know which division has the documents, you can go directly to that division’s GRAMA file clerk. We are required to respond within 10 working days of your request. Sometimes the requests involve sensitive or confidential materials that we cannot provide to the public, in which case we must explain why access was denied. You have the right to appeal any denial.
The state’s new open records portal makes it even easier for you to submit a GRAMA request to any state agency, not just DEQ. The portal was developed in conjunction with the Utah Transparency Board to provide a central access point for requesting government records. The website helps you find the governmental entity you want to contact and allows you to track the progress of your request. Over the next few years, the portal will be expanded to include local governments. Records released as a result of GRAMA requests through the portal will be made available on the open-records website.
We work hard to make sure as much information as possible is listed on our website, but if you can’t find it, be sure to submit a GRAMA request so we can provide you with the information you need.
Want to know if there’s environmental issue in your neighborhood? Check out our Interactive Map. Looking for information about a site assessment or monitoring? Visit our EZ Records Search. You can get information about submitting a GRAMA request to us by visiting our website or looking us up on the open-records portal.
I am the Executive Assistant for the Director or Water Quality (DWQ) as well as the division’s Support Staff Supervisor. I am a records officer and notary for the division, and I have been with DWQ for 2 years. Prior to working with DWQ, I worked for the Division of Child and Family Services and the Juvenile Justice System. I have a degree in Criminal Justice, but will have my BA in Business Management with an emphasis in human resources in the coming year. I love what I do, but love my family more, and anytime I can spend with them outside is time well spent. You can find me and my husband Jeremy and our children camping, hiking, fishing or any other outdoor recreational activity we can enjoy in our beautiful state!