PUC fails its 'public' role in hiding details of PPL case
PPL Electric Utilities does not want the public to know what it assigned a repair crew to do, other than attend to high-priority power restoration, in the wake of a major storm in October 2011.
That, of course, is all the more reason that the public should know.
Yet, in an extraordinary, unwarranted act of deference to a regulated utility against the public interest, the state Public Utility Commission has refused to disclose details of the incident as part of a settlement with PPL.
PPL violated PUC regulations when it diverted a work crew. The company agreed to pay $60,000, while acknowledging no wrongdoing, provided that the PUC not divulge details of the violation. Incredibly, the PUC acquiesced even though its own enabling statute requires public access to its information, as noted by attorney Melissa Melewsky of the Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association.
So far, the PUC and PPL have offered up unhealthy servings of baloney to explain the silence.
According to the PUC, disclosure would jeopardize the source who tipped the agency to the violation and potentially expose the source to retaliation - an argument that would be more convincing had the letter it received not been anonymous.
"No good could come from more information," PPL spokesman Paul Wirth said Thursday. Well, no good for the company might come from disclosing where it dispatched workers who were supposed to be restoring power, but the public interest is served by disclosure.
The PUC rejected formal disclosure requests from The (Scranton) Times-Tribune, The (Allentown) Morning Call and several other media organizations. So the questions of why PPL moved the work crew, and who benefited from the decision, will remain unanswered.
The PUC should stop shielding PPL from accountability, or drop the word "public" from its name to more accurately reflect its work product.