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State senators advance bill to shield public power cost data from public disclosure  

Critics who orchestrated a six-hour filibuster of the measure argued that public disclosure of detailed information is critical to maintaining the accountability of public power suppliers. Nebraska is the only state where all electrical generators are owned by ratepayers. “What’s going to happen when we give them the authority to hide information?” said Sen. Tom Brewer of Gordon. He tried unsuccessfully to amend the measure with one of his bills that would allow counties to adopt restrictions related to wind power generators.

Credit:  By Joe Duggan / World-Herald Bureau | Omaha World-Herald | www.omaha.com ~~

LINCOLN – Nebraska public power districts could shield certain cost data from public disclosure under a bill that received strong support Monday in the State Legislature.

State senators voted 42-2 to advance legislation that allows the districts to withhold “competitive or proprietary information which would give an advantage to business competitors.” The bill would apply to Omaha Public Power District, the Nebraska Public Power District, Lincoln Electric System and others.

Supporters of the bill said public release of detailed costs tied to electrical generation would allow competitors to undercut Nebraska generators in a multi-state power market. Private generators, however, are not required to report their costs.

“It’s about making sure the lights are on in Nebraska all the time,” said Sen. Dan Hughes of Venango, who sponsored the measure that was amended into Legislative Bill 1008.

Critics who orchestrated a six-hour filibuster of the measure argued that public disclosure of detailed information is critical to maintaining the accountability of public power suppliers. Nebraska is the only state where all electrical generators are owned by ratepayers.

“What’s going to happen when we give them the authority to hide information?” said Sen. Tom Brewer of Gordon. He tried unsuccessfully to amend the measure with one of his bills that would allow counties to adopt restrictions related to wind power generators.

The public power industry wants to change existing law after a recent state Supreme Court ruling ordered the Nebraska Public Power District to release certain proprietary cost information. The information was sought through a public records request by a potential competitor based in Houston.

News media outlets opposed the initial bill as overbroad, which led to a compromise amendment being reached.

The amendment approved by senators Monday defines competitive information as records that a reasonable person, knowledgeable of the electric utility industry, could conclude gives an advantage to business competitors.

LB 1008 is an omnibus bill prioritized by the Natural Resources Committee. It also contains an increase in liquidated damages that judges can assess against those convicted of illegally killing game animals, which was sponsored by Sen. Bruce Bostelman of Brainard.

Source:  By Joe Duggan / World-Herald Bureau | Omaha World-Herald | www.omaha.com

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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