CLF Files Freedom of Information Requests Seeking to Bring Transparency to the Regional Energy Strategy of the New England Governors
Mar 19, 2014 by Seth Kaplan
On March 19, 2014 the Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) filed Public Records requests with State Agencies across New England and with the New England States Committee on Electricity (NESCOE) that is acting on behalf of the states.
The requests (PDFs) can be found here: Maine (Utility Commission, Governor’s Energy Office, Public Advocate), New Hampshire, Vermont (attachment), Massachusetts (Utility Commission, Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs), Rhode Island, Connecticut (Utility Commission, Department of Energy & Environmental Protection) and NESCOE, and are described fully in the press release below. Responses to these requests will be posted here as we receive them.
In an effort to bring transparency to the process through which the Governors of the six New England states are proposing billions of dollars in new publicly funded energy infrastructure, Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) today filed public records requests in each of the states under their respective freedom of information laws, seeking records from state agencies as well as the New England States Committee on Electricity (NESCOE) – a regional entity through which the states are advancing their plan.
Since the Governors of the New England states first proposed regional coordination of energy planning in December 2013, Conservation Law Foundation has supported the need to replace old, inefficient power plants—as long as the process is fully open and transparent to ensure that billions of dollars in electric utility customers’ money are committed wisely. To date, CLF’s and others’ requests for full disclosure from the Governors and NESCOE about their plans have gone unanswered.
“The Governors’ regional energy plan appears to be the product of backroom deal-making rather than sound public policy informed by open dialogue. Without vital public transparency, the resulting projects are sure to cost more than they should, in dollars as well as environmental impact,” said Seth Kaplan, Vice President of Policy and Climate Advocacy at CLF. “Conservation Law Foundation filed these records requests to shed light on the Governors’ actions and ensure that the public knows more about the projects they would be funding when they pay their gas and electric bills – in terms of types of energy resources, costs, siting, and other elements.”
Governors and legislatures can and must play a role in establishing energy policy through publicly debated and adopted mechanisms, like the laws that have resulted in the launch of job-creating renewable energy and energy efficiency programs in the New England states. When Governors seek to commit public money to new energy resources, their actions must be consistent with the climate, environmental and customer protection laws and policies of the states—and the secretive planning process underway has not publicly demonstrated that it meets this test. Through NESCOE, the Governors have asked ISO New England to impose billions in costs on the public to pay for new gas pipelines and massive imports of Canadian hydropower, leading many to point out that the Governors’ focus on gas and Canadian hydro seems to be a “package deal” resulting from private negotiations between the Governors and energy industry representatives.
Freedom of information laws provide a critical check on the authority of Governors and their agencies by ensuring that backroom dealing can be exposed for public scrutiny. NESCOE, as an entity through which the Governors are acting to commit public resources – the money the public pays through utility bills – is likewise accountable to the public.
CLF intends to make the results of these records requests available on its website at www.clf.org/FOIA.