UPDATE: The NYISO issued a press release Tuesday saying that it had abandoned its plans to limit press coverage of its meetings and would instead adopt a more transparent policy. Here's a link to The Gazette's Your Right to Know blog post on the new policy.
When you accept a significant role in controlling vital aspects of people’s lives, including their finances and personal comfort, you have an obligation to be as transparent as possible with the people whose lives you control.
So the state, the press and the citizens need to strike back against new bylaw changes proposed by the New York Independent System Operator that would prevent news organizations from reporting on early discussions of matters relating to how the organization plans to address the state’s climate goals.
According to an article in Politico New York, the organization that plays a major role in electricity rates in New York wants to hold access to its meetings hostage — by setting strict limits on what can be reported and who can be quoted, in exchange for reporters being able to attend its meetings.
The new bylaw changes would require that quotes be approved before publication, that some participants in certain high-level meetings can refuse to be quoted, that reporters only are allowed to report on posted meeting materials, and that reporters are not allowed to report on meetings of working groups, where important matters related to rates are often hammered out.
Currently, meetings are open in-person coverage without conditions.
The organization justifies its decision by arguing that limiting press coverage allows its members to be more free to explore ideas and to cut down on errors in reporting.
But as the Politico article notes, numerous private organizations and government bodies in the energy generation field regularly air sensitive issues and positions in full view of an unrestricted press. So there’s no legitimate reason for the NYISO to impose such rules on its own press coverage.
The only reason for the restrictions is to limit public scrutiny of its discussions, actions and proposals until there’s nothing anyone can do about them.
Coverage of working groups in particular is vital because that’s where much of the policy positions that are put into place arise from.
Consider this: The very fact that these bylaws changes have been disclosed will likely result in modifications that improve public access to the organization’s activities.
Decisions about the electric grid are too important to everyone in the state — residents, businesses and government bodies — to have discussions about them conducted in secret.
The NYISO should abandon these changes and commit itself to transparency.