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PA Court: No Right to Know about Pipeline Safety Problems

April 5, 2012

Dick Martin, Coordinator of the Pennsylvania Forest Coalition, is one of the state’s unsung heroes. Here he takes on the Public Utility Commission and Pennsylvania’s right to know laws, which are so weak that the public can’t get access to basic pipeline safety information:

Gas Pipeline Safety – PA Court Backs PUC’s Non-Disclosure of Investigations

The PA  Commonwealth Court has ruled that Public Utility Commission (PUC) records concerning  the safety of natural gas pipelines are not public records.

Last year, the Wall Street Journal filed a right-to-know request with the PUC for records on pipeline safety incidents.   The PUC rejected that request and the case has been working its way from the state Office of Open Records to the courts.

Due to a loophole in Pennsylvania’s Open Records Law, the Court decided that the PUC may keep this information from the public.  The Open Records Law provides exemptions for records relating to “noncriminal investigations.”

Pennsylvania’s Right to Know (R2K) laws are considered among the weakest in the nation. State agencies have often denied access  to what should be public information. The excuse that I am sometimes given for refusal re R2K requests is that “the information is deliberative and pre-decisional,” when that was the point of the inquiry: to find out what was going on before it became “a done-deed.”

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Dick

R. Martin   Coordinator    www.PaForestCoalition.org

Mission: Good Stewardship of our Public Lands
Caring for what God has created

Read more: The Pennsylvania Record, “Commonwealth Court: Certain Natural Gas Pipeline Records Not Public”

Why it matters: when pipelines explode, they seriously explode.

Three pipelines explode (Pakistan)

Aftermath of pipeline explosion in Appomattox, Virginia (Transco Williams). Photo: pstrust.org

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