FERC will pay $23,500 in response to Ferguson’s lawsuit over FOIA request
SEATTLE — As a result of Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s lawsuit, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has provided hundreds of pages of communications not previously made public, including documents that show commissioners privately considered a proposal that would have subsidized coal- and nuclear-based power. FERC must pay $23,500 in attorney costs and fees to the Washington State Attorney General’s Office.
This is Ferguson’s 15th consecutive legal victory against the federal government since President Donald Trump took office. The state of Washington has not lost a case against the federal government since January 2017.
In November 2017, the Attorney General’s Office submitted a federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request asking for emails, text messages and other written communications among FERC commissioners during a tumultuous time at the agency. The request covered periods in which FERC failed to have a quorum, failed to hold any public meetings, and considered a proposal from the Department of Energy that would have subsidized coal- and nuclear-based power and upended energy markets. Ferguson’s request sought to make the commission’s communications available to the public.
“The public has a right to know what their officials are doing,” said Ferguson. “Transparency is an essential part of our democracy. It’s unfortunate we had to take the federal government to court to get the answers we deserve.”
Over several months in 2017, FERC failed to hold any public meetings on the issues it considered. One request from the Department of Energy proposed subsidizing coal and nuclear power, which Ferguson asserts would have upended energy markets. Despite the impact this request could have had on the majority of U.S. residents, the commission did not hold public meetings for several months, preventing the public from knowing which proposals the commission considered.
On Nov. 22, 2017, Ferguson submitted a FOIA request for all communications among commission members from Nov. 1, 2016 through Nov. 22, 2017. A response from the federal commission was due by Dec. 27, 2017. The Attorney General’s Office waited for several weeks after the deadline passed, but did not receive the requested materials or any communication from the commission.
When the Attorney General did not receive any documents, he filed a lawsuit, asking the court to require FERC to provide all communications required under the federal Freedom of Information Act.
As a result of Ferguson’s lawsuit, FERC has provided all requested communications (found here). The Attorney General’s Office will determine if further action is necessary.
Counsel for Environmental Protection chief Bill Sherman is leading the case. In 2016, Ferguson created the Counsel for Environmental Protection to protect our environment and the safety and health of all Washingtonians.
Ferguson has filed 32 lawsuits against the Trump Administration and has not lost a case. Ferguson now has 15 legal victories against the federal government since President Trump assumed office. Nine of those cases are finished and cannot be appealed. The Trump Administration has appealed or may appeal the other six, which include lawsuits involving Dreamers, 3D-printed guns and the transgender military ban.
No court to rule on the merits of the Attorney General’s arguments in a lawsuit against the Trump Administration has ruled against Washington state.
In comparison, according to the Texas Tribune, Texas attorneys general filed 49 lawsuits against the federal government during the Obama Administration. During President Obama’s two terms, Texas attorneys general won seven of those cases and lost 12.
The Office of the Attorney General is the chief legal office for the state of Washington with attorneys and staff in 27 divisions across the state providing legal services to roughly 200 state agencies, boards and commissions. Visit www.atg.wa.gov to learn more.
Dan Jackson, Acting Communications Director, (360) 753-2716; DanJ1@atg.wa.gov