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Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission v. Daniel Gilbert and the Wall Street Journal

March 27, 2012

PENNSYLVANIA PUBLIC UTILITY COMMISSION, PETITIONER
v.
DANIEL GILBERT AND THE WALL STREET JOURNAL, RESPONDENTS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Rochelle S. Friedman, Senior Judge

Submitted: January 13, 2012

BEFORE: HONORABLE BERNARD L. McGINLEY, Judge HONORABLE P. KEVIN BROBSON, Judge HONORABLE ROCHELLE S. FRIEDMAN, Senior Judge

OPINION BY SENIOR JUDGE FRIEDMAN

The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) petitions for review of an order of the Office of Open Records (OOR) dated June 27, 2011, which determined that the records requested from the PUC by Daniel Gilbert, a reporter for The Wall Street Journal (Gilbert), are "public records," pursuant to the Right-to-Know Law (Law),*fn1 and directed the PUC to make these records available. We reverse.

On March 31, 2011, the PUC received a written request from Gilbert pursuant to the Law, seeking access to records related to underground natural gas pipelines. Gilbert requested:

[E]lectronic copies of the following records, limited to underground natural-gas pipelines, beginning Jan. 1, 2000 and continuing through the present:

1.) All records related to probable violations identified by the [PUC] including but not limited to:

a.) A description of the probable violation, including applicable Pennsylvania Code sections, when and where it was identified, the company or individual faulted;

b.) All enforcement actions taken by the [PUC], including financial penalties, whether the actions were appealed, and the resolution of the actions;

c.) All associated descriptions and narratives concerning probable violations;

d.) A list of all types of records related to pipeline safety that operators are required to keep and that the [PUC] inspects.

2.) All records related to pipeline incidents reported to the [PUC] by pipeline operators, including but not limited to:

a.) The name of the pipeline operator, date and location of incident;

b.) Whether there was an explosion;

c.) The number of fatalities and injuries, if any;

d.) The property damage in dollars, if any;

e.) The cause of the incident as determined by the [PUC], and any description and narrative;

f.) If caused by a third party excavator, the name of the excavator, ...


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