HARRISBURG — The Right-To-Know officer for the state’s Public Utility Commission has responded to a Times Leader request to make an anonymous letter at the heart of an investigation into PPL public.
The response letter, signed by PUC Right To Know Officer Rosemary Chiavetta, said “A legal review is necessary to determine whether the record is a record subject to access under this act. A response is expected to be provided to you on or before October 8, 2013.”
The Times Leader filed a Right-To-Know request last week after a proposed settlement agreement between PPL Corp., an electric utility company based in Allentown that serves more than two dozen counties in eastern and central Pennsylvania, and the PUC was made public.
The region’s largest electric utility is accused of violating its internal guidelines and state law as part of its response to a late-October 2011 snowstorm that left 388,318 of PPL’s 1.4 million customers, including many in Luzerne County, without power.
PPL Corp. faces a $60,000 fine from the PUC, which has asked for public comment on the matter before approving the settlement, though all details of the matter are not being given to the public.
According to a summary of the incident offered by the PUC:
On April 26, 2012, after receiving an anonymous letter from a PPL employee, the PUC’s independent Bureau of Investigation and Enforcement, or I&E, began an informal investigation into PPL’s alleged improper transfer of a restoration crew in the wake of the Oct. 29, 2011, snowstorm.
The allegation was that the restoration crew was transferred from a higher priority job in order to restore service to a lower priority job. The bureau alleged this was a violation of PUC regulations, the Public Utility Code and the company’s restoration procedures.
That anonymous letter was not included in the public file, which led to the Times Leader filing.
Melissa Melewsky, a media law counsel with the Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association, said “The letter is presumptively public pursuant to the Right to Know Law, and it is the PUC’s burden to show if the record is exempt from public access if they deny your request.”