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Case for PPL records moves forward

Published March 01. 2014 09:00AM

Commonwealth Court on Wednesday ruled that the TIMES NEWS and 11 other media outlets may join with two newspapers in court cases to force the Pennsylvania Public Utilities Commission and PPL to release details of why PPL workers skipped restoring power to a high priority area in favor of a low priority area during an Oct. 29, 2011 ice storm.

The one-page ruling simply states that the news entities "shall participate in these matters as intervenors aligned with respondents."

The coalition of news companies on Feb. 5 asked the court if they could join the Times Leader, Wilkes-Barre, and The Morning Call, Allentown, in their suits to obtain the information from the Public Utilities Commission.

The diversion of work crews delayed power restoration to about 1,400 PPL customers. The PUC found PPL in the wrong for the diversion, revealed by an anonymous letter, and fined the utility. PPL settled with the PUC for $60,000.

However, the location of both areas is unknown because the PUC would not release that and other information under Right To Know Law requests from the Times Leader and The Morning Call. PPL has said that as part of its settlement, it would not disclose details of where the crews were sent, who sent them, and who benefitted.

The papers appealed PUC's refusal to the state Office of Open records, which ruled in the papers' favor. The ruling stated that the anonymous letter must be released because it's a public document under PUC's own statutes.

The PUC appealed the order to Commonwealth Court, arguing that its reasons for not releasing the letter should remain private. PPL later joined the appeal.

"The only outstanding motion now is the one of the PUC to add the additional affidavit to the record," said Attorney Craig A. Staudenmaier, who represents the coalition.

Neither PPL nor the PUC opposed the request.

The coalition includes the TIMES NEWS; The Morning Call; the Pocono Record; WNEP-TV; Civitas Media, publisher of the Times Leader; PA Media Group: PennLive/ The Patriot News; the Philadelphia Media Network; The Associated Press; Lancaster Newspapers; Calkins Media; the Scranton Times; and the Reading Eagle.

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