Environmental Protection

FOIA Lawsuit Targets DOE for Failing to Release Congressionally Ordered Water Energy Roadmap

A report ordered by Congress in 2005 on the connection between U.S. energy production and demands on water supplies is the target of a Freedom of Information Action (FOIA) lawsuit filed by Civil Society Institute (CSI) against the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu.

CSS filed the litigation after DOE failed to respond to a CSI FOIA request for a so-far-unreleased second portion of a report on the relationship between the nation's water supplies and its energy needs. CSI believes this portion of the report will address the water impacts of new electricity generation, including the potential impacts from additional nuclear reactors and from so-called carbon capture and storage of carbon emitted from the combustion of coal. 

According to CSI's complaint, the first part of the report was made public in 2006, but the second portion, titled the "National Energy-Water Roadmap" and drafted by experts at the Sandia National Laboratories, has been held up since July 2006. According to the complaint: "On information and belief, DOE has blocked the issuance of the roadmap over the last four years because it shows energy policy has not given adequate consideration to the nation's limited water resources."

Pam Solo, president of Civil Society Institute, said: "This is a classic example of why documents like this should be made public and in a timely fashion. In 2005, Congress mandated a water-energy blueprint as an essential piece of information for energy policy making.  Without this roadmap, water availability and water quality issues remain unaddressed.  As a result, Congress and the president are flying blind without a clear understanding of whether water is available for the proposed expansion of nuclear power plants and 'clean coal' plants under  what is euphemistically being termed a 'Clean Energy Standard.' This is not a side issue, but a central and pivotal piece of data that should inform and guide energy decision making."

Solo added:   "We are deeply concerned by the appearance that the study was done and then buried (or is currently being watered down) because it raised major and legitimate concerns about the impact of new power generation on increasingly scarce U.S. water resources, particularly in chronically drought-afflicted portions of the nation.  If this concern is not merited, then DOE should release the study and clear the air.  If our concerns are well founded, we expect to learn more as we vigorously pursue the FOIA litigation."


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