Mistrust of DEEP fuels enviros’ FOI request

Activists starkly signaled their distrust of the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Friday with a broad demand for records pertaining to the department's evolving energy policy.

The Connecticut Citizen Action Group, Common Cause and two others filed a freedom of information request demanding communication by Commissioner Daniel C. Esty and top DEEP staff with energy companies regarding energy legislation and policy.

John Murphy of CCAG said the activists feel they are being shut out of the drafting of important new energy policies, while Esty seems to be solicitous of energy companies.

"We get polite interaction and really nothing comes out of it," Murphy said. "It's got us alarmed. If they are not going to listen on this, this is a real problem."

Earlier this week, CCAG questioned Esty's sense of propriety after learning that he participated in a conference call arranged by UBS Securities with stock analysts and investors Tuesday, on the eve of a renewable energy vote in the state Senate. The vote was postponed.

Esty said he shared no confidential information, an assertion supported by the release of a transcript of the call.

The FOI request comes on the same day that the department released a report on a proposed new Renewable Portfolio Standard, including a controversial recommendation that could trigger accepting hydro-electric power as a favored renewable.

The Renewable Portfolio Standard requires electric companies to obtain a portion of their power from renewable sources, a policy to create a market for clean energy.

Environmentalists object to giving hydro-electric potentially the same status as wind and solar, saying hydro already is a major industry, while wind and solar still are trying to establish themselves.

Dennis Schain, a spokesman for Esty, said there is nothing wrong with the department's consulting a wide array of stakeholders.

"When we do respond, it should come as a surprise to no one that the records will show ongoing contacts and conversations with a wide range of people across the entire energy arena," Schain said. "This agency is charged with developing and implementing energy policies -- and the only way to do that effectively is to be talking constantly with all stakeholders."

The FOI request was signed by Murphy, Cheri Quickmire of Common Cause, Colin Bennet and former state Rep. Joel N. Gordes.

From Esty and his top staff it requests:

"Any and all documents from the past year related to the Comprehensive Energy Strategy, the Renewable Portfolio Standard, and Senate Bill 1138 including but not limited to any memoranda, e-mails, and records of meetings and discussions internally to DEEP and with the following companies, agents and lobbyists of these companies; Sustainable Energy Advantage LLC, Northeast Utilities, Connecticut Light and Power, NSTAR Electric and Gas, NU Transmission, Yankee Gas Service Corporation, Hydro-Québec, Heartland Institute, American Legislative Exchange Council, Chesapeake Appalachia LLC, Range Resources Appalachia LLC, Talisman Energy USA Inc, Shell Western E&P Co Lp, Atlas Resources LLC, EQT Production Co, Cabot Oil & Gas Corp, Chevron Appalachia LLC, and EOG Resources Inc.

"In addition, we request any and all documents including but not limited to any memoranda, e-mails, and records of meetings and discussions with any financial firms including but not limited to UBS."
Senate Bill 1138 is the renewable energy bill the Senate was to vote on Wednesday.

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