Sunday, January 3, 2016

Maine PUC declares documents at center of bias allegations to be "trade secrets"

To kick off your New Year, I have an update on an ongoing controversy at Maine's Public Utilities Commission, where an outgoing commissioner months ago charged that pricing forecasts are being manipulated to kill projects unloved by Governor Paul LePage and to boost those he likes.

That commissioner, holdover Gov. Baldacci appointee David Littell, said in dissenting opinions last winter that some of those forecasts should be made available to the public immediately to maintain accountability, transparency and the reputation of the PUC. The LePage appointees on the three-member commission overruled him, saying the data was still in active use, but could be released when this was no longer the case.

Faced with a public records request from yours truly, the PUC has, however, changed its mind on the last point. The forecasts in question -- now more than a year old and not in active use -- are now said to be "trade secrets" that will perhaps never be released.

My story in today's Maine Sunday Telegram lays out the situation, including comment from current PUC chair Mark Vannoy, the public advocate, and attorneys representing conservation groups.

I wrote about the PUC regularly in 2013, when the body was involved in a conflict of interest controversy involving Nestle Waters North America.

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