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Archive for Friday, March 1, 2002

Lawmakers OK fee for utility security

Critics say the bill is too broadly written because records could be kept secret

March 1, 2002

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— Customers would pay utility companies' costs for tightened security and the utilities would be able to keep secret the records that might jeopardize their security under legislation approved Thursday.

Supporters of the two bills said the measures were prompted by the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11 and subsequent warnings about threats to utilities.

But some legislators said the bills were too broadly written.

Rep. Dennis McKinney, D-Greensburg, opposed the security cost pass-throughs.

"The companies could be making high profits," and still stick consumers with security costs, he said.

Under the bill, electric and natural gas utilities could recover from customers expenditures for security measures required to protect transmission and production assets.

Rep. Tom Klein, D-Wichita, succeeded in getting an amendment added to the bill that would end the automatic cost pass-throughs in 2004.

By that time, Klein said, the state could reassess whether the terrorist threat remained sufficient to continue the pass-throughs. The House approved the amendment 60-58, and the full bill was given preliminary approval on a voice vote.

The other bill was sent to the Senate for consideration after the House gave it final approval, 108-13.

The bill adds an exemption the 45th exemption to the state's open records law, which requires the disclosure of public records.

The measure would exempt from state law the disclosure of records "which may jeopardize the security of systems, facilities, or equipment used in the production, transmission or distribution of energy or communications services."

When the bill was in committee, representatives from utilities, cities and counties testified in favor of the bill.

Jeff Burkhead, executive director of the Kansas Press Assn., opposed the bill, saying it could result in a "far-reaching veil of secrecy" to keep information from the public.

The bill allowing utilities to recover the cost of security measures is Sub HB 2644. The bill amending the open records act is HB 2959.

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