Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Wisconsin PSC Opts For Document Secrecy. Why?

This decision by the Wisconsin Public Service Commission certainly raises a lot of questions about open government, public access to records and the free flow of information:


Effective immediately, the Wisconsin Public Service Commission is changing the handling of confidential filings.  As you may recall, past practice was to have confidential status expire automatically after 4 years unless a party requests an extension of that status.  Because the retention for the vast majority of our documents is greater than 4 years, this resulted in numerous and repeated requests for extensions of confidential status.  This was becoming burdensome and inefficient.  To reduce waste, improve efficiency, and to better align the Commission’s practice on the handling of confidential materials with the Commission’s document retention practices, the Commission has decided to abolish the 4 year automatic expiration period.  Instead, please be advised that Commission practice, until further notice, is to maintain the confidential status of the document throughout the life cycle of the document.

Please be reminded, however, that the grant of confidential status does not automatically mean the document will be retained confidentially and withheld from public inspection.  Such determinations must be made consistent with Wisconsin’s public records law and any other law requiring release of Commission records.

Please see attached for more information.  This document has also been filed in the ERF System.  If you have questions regarding the Commission’s practice and procedure relating to handling of documents granted confidential status, or the duration of that status, please contact the Commission’s Office of General Counsel at (608) 266-1264 or e-mail Cynthia Smith.

Cliff Koehler
Data Administrator
Public Service Commission of Wisconsin
phone: 608.267-9026  fax: 608.266-3957


clyde winter said...

I imagine that it would really be best for public relations and for the well-being and peace of mind of the so-called "regulated", so-called "public" utilities, if this somewhat embarrassing, easily "misunderstood" document itself would soon be permanently classified "confidential", and to also disappear from public view, along with all the other past and future now permanently disappeared documents.

Tell us what corporatocracy looks like. This is what it looks like.

Thanks for shining your little light in that dank corner, James.

James Rowen said...

Thanks. More - -

Anonymous said...

While I agree that fewer documents should be treated as confidential at the PSC, the change they're making here is not going to make any difference to the public. They're eliminating the requirement that utilities reapply for confidential handling after four years on file. Practically speaking it won't matter at all.

Max B said...

Why do any PSC documents need to be confidential at all? The PSC operates with public money, allegedly on behalf of the public, so why the need? The utilities SHOULD justify why any of these documents are deemed confidential in the first place, and then again in 2 or 3 years, not 4.

This is just ridiculous.

James Rowen said...

Given that state power plants can now be sold no-bid, and there is talk about new nuclear power generation,and much controversy over wind power siting, I'd say there is a huge need for more sunlight on PSC matters, not less.

Anonymous said...

Totally agree that far too many documents are made confidential to begin with, and we need more light on PSC matters. Just saying this particular procedural tweak won't change anything since if utilities want to keep things confidential now, they can do it. All it means is less paperwork. What needs to change is the up-front confidentiality determination, at the time when people are paying attention to the documents and they relate to decisions being made at that time, not 4 years later.