Nebraska public utilities, media organizations trying to find compromise in public-records case

Failing to clarify a law exempting the state’s public power providers from making proprietary records public could affect ratepayers, representatives of those public utilities told the Legislature’s Natural Resources Committee on Wednesday.

But media organizations said a proposal by Sen. Dan Hughes of Venango on behalf of the public power industry carved out too much from the state’s public-records laws, pushing public power in the direction of their profit-driven competition.

At the close of a lengthy hearing Wednesday — which Hughes said was one of the best hearings he’s attended as a state senator — the two sides huddled to strike a deal.

The drafted compromise that could go back to the committee allows public utilities to withhold “competitive or proprietary information which would give an advantage to business competitors” from being turned over in response to public-records requests.

It defines competitive information as “information which a reasonable person, knowledgeable of the electric utility industry, could conclude gives an advantage to business competitors,” keeping the door open for the public to make a case to each provider or other means outlined in statute. Read more…