One of the ways that The Energy and Policy Institute exposes attacks on clean energy policy is by filing public records requests of federal, state and local government agencies. This page contains a few (non-exhaustive) examples of EPI’s record requests. Advocates or journalists interested in learning more about our work with public record requests should contact us.

FOIA Documents and Litigation

When government agencies have stonewalled requests, EPI has filed appeals or lawsuits filed in attempts to make documents available to the public. Examples include:

EPI filed a lawsuit in the Eastern District of Tennessee in December 2019 alleging violations of the Freedom of Information Act by the Tennessee Valley Authority. EPI contends that TVA is withholding records related to its membership in the Utility Air Regulatory Group and the Utility Solid Waste Activities Group, which have fought stricter EPA rules on coal pollution.

In 2016, attorneys on behalf of EPI, Citizens Action Coalition, and Common Cause Indiana argued in front of the Indiana Supreme Court over the state’s public records law. The three organizations filed a lawsuit in April 2015 after Indiana Rep. Eric Koch chose not to disclose his emails with utility industry lobbyists on three separate occasions. The Indiana Supreme Court concluded that Indiana’s public records law did apply to members of the Indiana General Assembly. However, although this issue was never before the lower court, Rep. Koch and the Indiana House Republican Caucus argued that the state’s public records law exempts General Assembly members’ “work product” from disclosure. The Indiana Supreme Court ruled that the General Assembly can avoid disclosing the emails to the public based on the work product exemption.

Responsive documents obtained by EPI showing industry influence of public officials

On April 22, 2020, an American Electric Power lobbyist, Steve Stewart, emailed the Chair of the West Virginia Public Service Commission, Charlotte Lane. The email was a message from AEP’s Anthony ‘Tony’ Kavanagh, senior vice president of governmental affairs based in Washington D.C. Kavanagh requested all AEP lobbyists communicate with their state commissions to express concern about a federal moratorium. It was marked “Confidential.” Days later, Lane sent letters to the West Virginia Congressional delegation that requested them to “reject” the proposals for a federal moratorium on utility shutoffs.

July 2019 emails between the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE) and West Virginia public service commissioners revealing a campaign orchestrated by the coal-lobby group to support the Trump administration’s coal plant bailout proposal.

2018 text messages between Arizona Corporation Commissioner Andy Tobin and lobbyists for Arizona Public Service reveal a close relationship.

Tobin texts Ho about media coverage of the Four Corners rate hike, which was (and remains) a pending docket open before the ACC. The texts take place on the evening of September 6, the second day of the Four Corners rate hike hearings. Tobin asks Ho “if there’s a public information strategy” to deal with the media coverage. Ho does not respond.

EPA Assistant Administrator Bill Wehrum’s December 2017 presentation to his former client the Utility Air Regulatory Group, whose membership list features coal-burning electric utilities.

March 2017 emails between FirstEnergy executives, Murray Energy’s Robert Murray, and Department of Energy officials reveal language and suggested action plans that found their way into various iterations of DOE proposals aimed at bailing out uneconomic coal plants and nuclear plants

City of Troy, Alabama’s stonewalling on public records catches the eye of statewide media

EPI filed a records request of Troy, Alabama for records related to Southeast Gas, a publicly-owned gas district in Southeast Alabama. The City of Troy responded to our request claiming it was not required to search for records, assemble the records, or transmit them to EPI.

Alabama State Senator Cam Ward, who has pushed to improve open records laws in the state, said of the city attorney’s position, “Under his interpretation, there is no right to any public records. That is beyond the BS smell test.”

Read more at Alabama town’s new excuse for hiding public records: We don’t have to look for them

Posted by Energy and Policy Institute