ISO-NE and the New England Power Pool (NEPOOL) bar the public and the press from virtually all of their stakeholder meetings. They are the only one of the seven regional electric grid operators in the U.S. to do so.
New England is unique in its hybrid structure. NEPOOL, created in 1971, has more than 440 members (about 260 voting members) including utilities, independent power producers, marketers, load aggregators, end users and demand resource providers. ISO-NE was formed in 1997 at NEPOOL’s suggestion — and with FERC’s approval — to administer the region’s Open Access Transmission Tariff. ISO-NE describes NEPOOL “an advisory body” to the RTO.
NEPOOL’s four principal committees — the Participants, Markets, Reliability and Transmission committees — met 76 times and took almost 300 votes in 2014, according to the organization’s annual report. None of the meetings were open to the public or press.
The only ISO-NE-hosted meetings that are open are the Consumer Liaison Group, which meets quarterly; the annual Regional System Plan public meeting; and the Planning Advisory Committee, which meets once or twice monthly.
“However, virtually every PAC meeting includes presentation and discussion of material that is classified as Critical Energy Infrastructure Information (CEII),” ISO-NE spokeswoman Marcia Blomberg told RTO Insider. “As you know, CEII materials can’t be discussed publicly, reported upon or distributed.”
No other region covered by RTO Insider considers planning committee materials CEII1. In fact, we have received their blessings to reproduce documents such as transmission project maps to illustrate our articles. (Blomberg said the RTO can provide some maps and other materials that don’t disclose CEII, with determinations made on a case-by-case basis.)
NEPOOL Secretary David T. Doot told RTO Insider that while his group’s meetings are not public, “all meeting materials, including agendas, supporting materials (to the extent they are not confidential), and notices of all actions taken by each committee,” are posted on the NEPOOL website. Doot said he is willing to answer reporters’ questions before or after the meetings.
Indeed, NEPOOL provides unusually detailed meeting minutes. Its account of the Sept. 11 Participants Committee, for example, ran more than 20 pages.
We’re not suggesting NEPOOL or ISO-NE has anything to hide. So why do anything that makes it look that way?
— Rich Heidorn Jr.
1 FERC defines Critical Energy Infrastructure Information in the Code of Federal Regulations:
(1) Critical energy infrastructure information means specific engineering, vulnerability, or detailed design information about proposed or existing critical infrastructure that:
(i) Relates details about the production, generation, transportation, transmission, or distribution of energy;
(ii) Could be useful to a person in planning an attack on critical infrastructure;
(iii) Is exempt from mandatory disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act, 5 U.S.C. 552; and
(iv) Does not simply give the general location of the critical infrastructure.
(2) Critical infrastructure means existing and proposed systems and assets, whether physical or virtual, the incapacity or destruction of which would negatively affect security, economic security, public health or safety, or any combination of those matters.