A party to the second phase of the Vermont Gas Systems pipeline project is raising objections to a proposed protective agreement with the Department of Public Service that it claims would significantly limit access to information introduced during the regulatory process.
The Vermont Public Interest Research Group filed a letter Friday with the PSB objecting to several clauses in the proposed agreement, including one that it alleged would do an end run around the public records law.
Solar Haven Farm in Shoreham also filed an objection to the agreement.
In response, International Paper on Friday filed its own objection to the VPIRG and Solar Haven Farm requests to modify the proposed protective agreement.
Phase II of the natural gas pipeline would serve the IP mill in Ticonderoga, N.Y.
James Dumont, a lawyer representing VPIRG, said the agreement allows Vermont Gas Systems and the Department of Public Service to decide what information is subject to the protective order rather than the Public Service Board finding whether the information should be kept confidential.
Dumont said it’s a provision that in the past the PSB has declined to endorse, yet the department included it in the proposed protective agreement with Vermont Gas.
In its letter to the PSB supporting the agreement, Louise Porter, the Department of Public Service special counsel, said it “will serve to expedite the production of information among VGS, the department, and any other party to the agreement.”
IP asked the board to delay any decision until it responds in full by April 30.
In an email, Vermont Gas Systems spokesman Steve Wark said the company has provided 9,000 documents and fewer than 10 were claimed by the company as confidential or highly confidential.
“Those documents under seal include the names of customers, competitively sensitive information in the contract with the Ticonderoga paper mill and detailed budget information for the project,” Wark said.
In its proposed protective order, VGS is also proposing that confidential information, except for the case under consideration, cannot be used in any other proceedings that come before the PSB.
Dumont said it means that information cannot be used “even under seal” in a future proceeding. He said using previously gathered information isn’t unusual.
VPIRG also objected to a clause that bars the parties from using the information before other federal or state agencies “that provide similar protection for confidential information.”
VPIRG also objected to a provision that bars the parties from disclosing information to law enforcement agencies.
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