Sierra Club sues DOE over 'secretive' grid study - Smart Energy Decisions

Regulation, Solar, Wind  -  August 15, 2017

Sierra Club sues DOE over 'secrecy' of grid study

Photo credit: Mark Van Scyoc /

The Sierra Club on Aug. 14 filed a lawsuit against the U.S. DOE for its lack of transparency regarding the ongoing study of the U.S. electric grid that the department began preparing in April. 

The environmental advocacy group cited the department's "repeated delays" in proving information it requested about the study, which was ordered by Energy Secretary Rick Perry to focus on the impacts of an accelerating amount of renewable energy being added to the U.S. generation mix. In an April 14 memo, Perry called on his chief of staff to explore whether "policies that favor wind and solar energy are accelerating the retirement of coal and nuclear plants critical to ensuring steady, reliable power supplies."

According to the lawsuit, the Sierra Club in May filed a Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA, request for documents containing communications about the study between DOE officials and third-party groups, including those connected to fossil fuel industries. The FOIA required the department to make a determination on the request by May 30; the Sierra Club in its lawsuit says the DOE ignored that deadline and has not made any determination on the request or produced any of the documents requested. 

"We've repeatedly asked DOE for information to ensure reality and science are coming before polluter politics, but we have only been met with delays and secrecy," The Hill quoted Mary Anne Hitt, the director of Sierra Club's Beyond Coal campaign, as saying. "If the Trump administration refuses to be transparent in accordance with the law and continues to raise suspicion that it will interfere with the process, we have no choice but to take them to court."

The Sierra Club also echoed concerns about the study expressed by the renewable energy industry and other environmental advocates in explaining how the DOE's methodology for the study is in the public interest: 

"It appears DOE has intended from the outset to release a biased study containing pre-determined conclusions that 'baseload plants utilizing fossil fuels are necessary for the reliability and resiliency of the grid, and that existing policies to encourage continued adoption of clean energy sources must be scaled back," the Sierra Club says in the lawsuit. "DOE's statement announcing the preparation of the study, the involvement of DOE personnel with strong ties to the traditional fossil fuel energy industry, and the apparent exclusion by DOE of well-known industry and government experts knowledgeable about the U.S. electrical grid, all suggest the study being prepared will be biased for the traditional fossil fuel industry and against emerging clean energy sources."

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