FERC Abuses Document Accessibility

Save Passamaquoddy Bay, based in Eastport, Maine, filed a comment to the US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in response to FERC Chair Cheryl A. LaFleur's April 9th statement on protecting sensitive information. Save Passamaquoddy Bay observed that, while sensitive information must be protected, there is an opposite problem: FERC facilitates applicant abuse of document accessibility classification. Applicants in FERC permitting regularly place inappropriate Non-Public classification on documents that do not qualify, thus preventing public access to information about projects that the public has every right to access.

Save Passamaquoddy Bay researcher Robert Godfrey stated that when such abuse occurs, instead of FERC correcting the document classification from Non-Public to Public, FERC takes no action. Typically, members of the public must protest to FERC, or file Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. FOIA requests can take months, or even over a year, to be fulfilled. In any case, applicants prevent the public from accessing information in a timely manner, hindering public participation in the process. Meanwhile, the FERC permitting process continues without valuable public input. "FERC clearly violates its public interest responsibility by not vetting applicants' Non-Public filings," Godfrey said, "rightfully causing distrust in the FERC permitting process."

Save Passamaquoddy Bay suggests that FERC establish consequences for document classification abuse, including fines, delayed permitting, and a "three offenses and you're out" application dismissal for repeated abuse.

Save Passamaquoddy Bay's comments, along with FERC Chair LaFleur's statement, can be downloaded at http://elibrary.ferc.gov/idmws/file_list.asp?accession_num=20140414-5170

"FERC is an independent federal agency, answerable only to Congress, and is funded in part by indirect revenue from applicants' fees. The public has nowhere to go for redress, other than the courts — a prohibitively expensive process, demonstrating the seriousness of document access abuse, and why it must be immediately corrected," Godfrey concluded.

Save Passamaquoddy Bay (SPB) is an alliance of citizens from the U.S., the Passamaquoddy Tribe, and Canada, who oppose siting LNG industrial facilities in Passamaquoddy Bay, and who advocate adherence to world-recognized LNG terminal siting best safe practices as published by the Society of International Gas Tanker and Terminal Operators (SIGTTO). SPB advocates creative-economy, tradition-based, and tourism-based economic development for the international Passamaquoddy Bay area.