Access to nuke records blocked

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foia bill

Friends of the Earth says post them all

By ROBERT MEYEROWITZ

Tom Clements of environmentalist group Friends of the Earth has been a longstanding critic of the V.C. Summer nuclear reactor project that went belly-up last week.

In May, long before partners Santee Cooper and SCE&G decided to pull the plug on it, he sent records requests, under the state’s Freedom of Information statute, to Santee Cooper and the state Office of Regulatory Staff (ORS), asking for all public records created or retained by the agencies in 2017 pertaining to SCE&G and its parent company SCANA, the state’s Public Service Commission, and other concerned parties, “to determine what the agencies knew about the bankruptcy of Westinghouse,” the contractor on the reactor project, “before it was filed on March 29, 2017,” according to a press release today from Friends of the Earth.

Several months ago, Friends of the Earth received responses to its requests.

ORS said fees for the records could costs $500 or more.

Santee Cooper said the cost of fulfilling the request would be… $10,839.60.

“Release of the documents is essential as they will shed light on the state’s role in how the failure of the project developed from the day it was proposed in 2008,” Clements said in the statement.

“While charging some fees for FOIA requests may be valid, given the urgency of this matter both ORS and Santee Cooper must use their discretion and show willingness to serve the public interest by releasing the documents in their entirety and without charge.”

Speaking by phone, Clements elaborated: “They should create an online digital library on this whole nuclear project, and start posting documents to show that they’re being open and honest,” he said. “If they were serious they would do it on their own, with no charge.”

Santee Cooper spokesperson Mollie Gore said Clements had asked “for an exceptionally large number of documents,” which would entail “a lot of staff time to prepare,” hence the hefty fee.

“We are making information public,” she continued. “We had a pretty detailed presentation at our board meeting last week.”

She said the state-owned utility wants “to serve the general public.”

ORS executive director Dukes Scott, after noting that the bill for his agency’s records was a comparative bargain, said creating an online digital library, as Clements proposes, is “not that simple. Somebody has got to go through all these documents and emails. It’s not like we have files here and all we have to do is put it on the system.”

ORS, he said, already posts a lot of information on its website. “We try to keep the public informed.”

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