NE Power Pool seeks to ban press

Says coverage would hinder debate on electricity policies

THE NEW ENGLAND POWER POOL, an organization that helps develop policies and procedures governing the region’s wholesale electricity markets, is seeking federal regulatory approval to bar reporters from its meetings.

NEPOOL has always had an unwritten policy excluding the press, but it decided to make it a formal policy after a reporter with a trade publication called RTO Insider tried to gain admittance to the meetings. RTO Insider was the first to report on the press ban.

In its filing with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, NEPOOL said allowing the press to attend its meetings “would adversely impact NEPOOL’s ability to continue to foster candid discussions and negotiations in its stakeholder meetings.” NEPOOL’s stakeholders include firms actively engaged in the electricity markets, including power generators and transmission companies, as well as state officials and the regional grid operator, ISO New England.

Tyson Slocum, director of the energy program at Public Citizen, the advocacy group founded by Ralph Nader, said NEPOOL is a federally regulated entity that helps develop policies covering electricity markets in the region. He said the public, including reporters, should be allowed to monitor the votes and deliberations of the members of the organization, just as they do with similar organizations in other parts of the country.

“The people that run NEPOOL are completely out of control,” he said.

A spokeswoman for ISO New England said NEPOOL is a private organization that establishes its own policies on attendance at its meetings. “NEPOOL has an advisory relationship to the ISO, but is not under the ISO’s jurisdiction,” the spokeswoman said.

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Bruce Mohl

Editor, CommonWealth

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

NEPOOL’s filing with FERC indicates the organization debated the press ban and even considered an alternative approach initially. The alternative approach would have required members of the press to pay a $5,000 fee that would have allowed them to attend most meetings except those held with the board of ISO New England. The alternative proposal would have allowed reporters to quote meeting participants “subject to a requirement that the press provide a pre-publication draft of meeting coverage to all attendees quoted so that they could make corrections and provide additional explanation for context based on responses from the individuals quoted. “

The alternative proposal was defeated by a margin of 73-27.