Energy Department’s Attempt to Secretly Classify Energy Sites Violates Numerous Federal Laws

WASHINGTON, D.C. December 28, 2018 – The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) lacks the legal authority to classify energy infrastructure, including struggling power plants, as “secret” in an attempt to conceal vital information from the public, Public Citizen, EarthJustice and other groups said Friday in a letter (PDF) to the agency.

A rule proposed in October by the Trump administration would create secret electric infrastructure classifications that would shield critical material from the public; opening the door for DOE to use these designations as a national security rationale and force consumers to pay for billions of dollars in bailouts to owners of coal and nuclear power plants.

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The proposal follows a leaked memo from DOE to the National Security Council that described the Trump administration’s efforts to use a national security justification for its bailout of uneconomic nuclear and coal power plants.

“For the last year and a half Trump has tried to ram through a massive, multibillion dollar bailout of uneconomic nuclear and coal power plants, using national security as an excuse,” said Tyson Slocum, director of Public Citizen’s Energy Program.

Under current regulations the DOE lacks the authority to designate infrastructure as critical to national security, and the proposed rule would give it such power.

The groups contend, however, that if finalized, the rule would still violate the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act, the Freedom of Information Act, the Administrative Procedure Act and the Federal Records Act.

“On its face, the proposal appears to be little more than an attempt to hide the Department’s decision-making process from public scrutiny and obfuscate judicial challenges to the Department’s authority,” the groups said. “As such, we find the proposal offensive to the basic principles of good governance and public participation.”

Read the full letter (PDF).