F17-02Posted on Dec 8, 2016 in Formal Opinions
Opinion Letter No. F17-02
December 8, 2016
Public Utility Commission Applicant Records
Requester asked OIP whether the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) properly denied her request under the Uniform Information Practices Act (UIPA) for a submittal filed in PUC Docket No. 2010-0304.
OIP considered whether the PUC’s issuance of a protective order justified withholding information that does not fall within any exception to the UIPA, and concluded that it did not. Section 6-61-50, HAR, allows a party to seek a protective order by the PUC “to protect the confidentiality of information that is protected from disclosure under chapter 92F, HRS, or by law.” HAR § 6-61-50. The UIPA itself protects information that is made confidential by state or federal law. HRS § 92F‑13(4) (2012). Thus, because a PUC protective order is limited to information protected from disclosure under the UIPA, it may not be used to justify withholding information that does not fall within any exception to the UIPA.
OIP found that with limited exceptions, cost and overhead information submitted to the PUC could be withheld as confidential commercial and financial information under the UIPA’s exception for government records that must be confidential to avoid the frustration of a legitimate government function. HRS § 92F-13(3) (2012). OIP has consistently found that disclosure of detailed financial information such as cost and overhead information is likely to cause substantial competitive harm, especially where it could be combined with known figures such as a government contract price to estimate actual profit. E.g., OIP Op. Ltrs. No. 97-4 and 94-14.
OIP found that narrative descriptions, correspondence, loan agreements, and other non-cost information submitted to the PUC could not be withheld as confidential commercial and financial information under the UIPA’s exception for information which, if disclosed, would frustrate a legitimate government function. HRS § 92F‑13(3). The information is, in some instances, already public knowledge and generally constitutes mundane information of a sort that is not considered confidential commercial or financial information. See OIP Op. Ltr. No. 92-17 at 12-13.
OIP also found that technical information and detailed information regarding the location of network infrastructure and types of equipment could be withheld to prevent compromising the physical or electronic security of critical telecommunication infrastructure under the UIPA’s exception for information which, if disclosed, would frustrate a legitimate government function. HRS § 92F‑13(3). Information about switch and microwave radio types by specific model, detailed network diagrams, and local-level scaled maps showing locations of network infrastructure could be used in planning either a physical or electronic disruption to the network and as such their disclosure could reasonably be expected to cause damage to the security of the network.
Finally, OIP found that direct business contact information could be withheld under the UIPA’s exception for information which, if disclosed, would frustrate a legitimate government function. HRS § 92F-13(3).