|Office of the Attorney General - State of Texas
August 15, 2000
Mr. Michael J. Cosentino
Dear Mr. Cosentino:
You ask whether certain information is subject to required public disclosure under chapter 552 of the Government Code. Your request was assigned ID# 138001.
The City of Bryan (the "city") received a request for "[a]ny and all documents or correspondence involving maintenance issues or operational problems with transformers or power generation at the Gibbons Creek power plant in Carlos, Texas, during April and May 2000." You state that the city has one responsive document, which you seek to withhold pursuant to sections 552.104 and 552.131 of the Government Code. We have considered the exceptions you claim and reviewed the submitted information.
Government Code section 552.131, the "public power utility competitive matters" exception, provides:
(a) In this section:
(1) "Public power utility" means an entity providing electric or gas utility services that is subject to the provisions of this chapter.
(2) "Public power utility governing body" means the board of trustees or other applicable governing body, including a city council, of a public power utility.
(3) "Competitive matter" means a utility-related matter that the public power utility governing body in good faith determines by a vote under this section is related to the public power utility's competitive activity, including commercial information, and would, if disclosed, give advantage to competitors or prospective competitors but may not be deemed to include the following categories of information:
(A) information relating to the provision of distribution access service, including the terms and conditions of the service and the rates charged for the service but not including information concerning utility-related services or products that are competitive;
(B) information relating to the provision of transmission service that is required to be filed with the Public Utility Commission of Texas, subject to any confidentiality provided for under the rules of the commission;
(C) information for the distribution system pertaining to reliability and continuity of service, to the extent not security-sensitive, that relates to emergency management, identification of critical loads such as hospitals and police, records of interruption, and distribution feeder standards;
(D) any substantive rule of general applicability regarding service offerings, service regulation, customer protections, or customer service adopted by the public power utility as authorized by law;
(E) aggregate information reflecting receipts or expenditures of funds of the public power utility, of the type that would be included in audited financial statements;
(F) information relating to equal employment opportunities for minority groups, as filed with local, state, or federal agencies;
(G) information relating to the public power utility's performance in contracting with minority business entities;
(H) information relating to nuclear decommissioning trust agreements, of the type required to be included in audited financial statements;
(I) information relating to the amount and timing of any transfer to an owning city's general fund;
(J) information relating to environmental compliance as required to be filed with any local, state, or national environmental authority, subject to any confidentiality provided under the rules of those authorities;
(K) names of public officers of the public power utility and the voting records of those officers for all matters other than those within the scope of a competitive resolution provided for by this section;
(L) a description of the public power utility's central and field organization, including the established places at which the public may obtain information, submit information and requests, or obtain decisions and the identification of employees from whom the public may obtain information, submit information or requests, or obtain decisions; or
(M) information identifying the general course and method by which the public power utility's functions are channeled and determined, including the nature and requirements of all formal and informal policies and procedures.
(b) Information or records are excepted from the requirements of Section 552.021 if the information or records are reasonably related to a competitive matter, as defined in this section. Excepted information or records include the text of any resolution of the public power utility governing body determining which issues, activities, or matters constitute competitive matters. Information or records of a municipally owned utility that are reasonably related to a competitive matter are not subject to disclosure under this chapter, whether or not, under the Utilities Code, the municipally owned utility has adopted customer choice or serves in a multiply certificated service area. This section does not limit the right of a public power utility governing body to withhold from disclosure information deemed to be within the scope of any other exception provided for in this chapter, subject to the provisions of this chapter.
(c) In connection with any request for an opinion of the attorney general under Section 552.301 with respect to information alleged to fall under this exception, in rendering a written opinion under Section 552.306 the attorney general shall find the requested information to be outside the scope of this exception only if the attorney general determines, based on the information provided in connection with the request:
(1) that the public power utility governing body has failed to act in good faith in making the determination that the issue, matter, or activity in question is a competitive matter; or
(2) that the information or records sought to be withheld are not reasonably related to a competitive matter.
This provision of the Government Code excepts from public disclosure information reasonably related to a "competitive matter" as determined by the vote of a public power utility governing body acting in good faith. The governing body in this instance is the Bryan City Council. You have provided a copy of that body's Resolution 2639, in which the council determined categories of information as "competitive matters" of Bryan Texas Utilities ("BTU") as contemplated by section 552.131 of the Government Code. After reviewing the document submitted and the resolution of the city council, we conclude that you have demonstrated that the information submitted is "reasonably related to a competitive matter." Gov't Code § 552.131(b). The city may withhold the requested information. As we find section 552.131 to be dispositive, we do not address your section 552.104 argument.
This letter ruling is limited to the particular records at issue in this request and limited to the facts as presented to us; therefore, this ruling must not be relied upon as a previous determination regarding any other records or any other circumstances.
This ruling triggers important deadlines regarding the rights and responsibilities of the governmental body and of the requestor. For example, governmental bodies are prohibited from asking the attorney general to reconsider this ruling. Gov't Code § 552.301(f). If the governmental body wants to challenge this ruling, the governmental body must appeal by filing suit in Travis County within 30 calendar days. Id. § 552.324(b). In order to get the full benefit of such an appeal, the governmental body must file suit within 10 calendar days. Id. § 552.353(b)(3), (c). If the governmental body does not appeal this ruling and thegovernmental body does not comply with it, then both the requestor and the attorney general have the right to file suit against the governmental body to enforce this ruling. Id. § 552.321(a).
If this ruling requires the governmental body to release all or part of the requested information, the governmental body is responsible for taking the next step. Based on the statute, the attorney general expects that, within 10 calendar days of this ruling, the governmental body will do one of the following three things: 1) release the public records; 2) notify the requestor of the exact day, time, and place that copies of the records will be provided or that the records can be inspected; or 3) notify the requestor of the governmental body's intent to challenge this letter ruling in court. If the governmental body fails to do one of these three things within 10 calendar days of this ruling, then the requestor should report that failure to the attorney general's Open Government Hotline, toll free, at 877/673-6839. The requestor may also file a complaint with the district or county attorney. Id. § 552.3215(e).
If this ruling requires or permits the governmental body to withhold all or some of the requested information, the requestor can appeal that decision by suing the governmental body. Id. § 552.321(a); Texas Department of Public Safety v. Gilbreath, 842 S.W.2d 408,411 (Tex. App.--Austin 1992, no writ).
If the governmental body, the requestor, or any other person has questions or comments about this ruling, they may contact our office. Although there is no statutory deadline for contacting us, the attorney general prefers to receive any comments within 10 calendar days of the date of this ruling.
Patricia Michels Anderson
Ref: ID# 138001
Encl. Submitted documents
cc: Ms. Colleen Kavanagh
POST OFFICE BOX 12548, AUSTIN, TEXAS 78711-2548 TEL: (512) 463-2100 WEB: WWW.OAG.STATE.TX.US