OLR Bill Analysis

sHB-7221

AN ACT CONCERNING ACCESS TO WATER PLANNING INFORMATION.

SUMMARY

This bill revamps the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) exemption for certain water company records. Generally, it removes water company records from the coverage of an existing FOIA exemption that applies to all public agency records if reasonable grounds exist to believe that their release could pose a security risk. It instead creates a new exemption that identifies specific water company records that are exempt from disclosure under FOIA.

In addition to these specified records, the bill also exempts from disclosure any other water company record if there are reasonable grounds to believe that disclosure may result in a security risk. The water company must obtain a written determination from an executive branch state agency with cognizance of the matter that these reasonable grounds exist.

The bill specifies that a water company record is not exempt from disclosure if the company released the information or type of information sought into the public domain after September 1, 2003.

EFFECTIVE DATE: October 1, 2017

APPLICABILITY OF FOIA TO WATER COMPANY RECORDS

Under FOIA, a “public agency” is generally any (1) state, municipal, regional, or quasi-public agency, including any judicial office, or (2) entity that is the functional equivalent of such agencies (CGS 1-200). The law defines a water company as any individual, municipality, or entity that owns, maintains, operates, manages, controls, or employs any pond, lake, reservoir, well, stream, or distributing plant or system that supplies water to two or more consumers or to 25 or more people on a regular basis (CGS 25-32a).

Thus, a water company itself is subject to FOIA if the company is a public agency. If a water company is not such a public agency, its records may still be subject to FOIA if they are submitted to a public agency (e.g., a water supply plan submitted to the Department of Public Health.)

The bill revamps the FOIA exemption for certain water company records, as described below.

CURRENT EXEMPTION

Exempt Records

Existing law exempts records from disclosure under FOIA when there are reasonable grounds to believe that disclosure may result in a safety risk, including the risk of harm to any government-owned or -leased institution or facility. Under current law, a government-owned or -leased institution or facility includes an institution or facility owned or leased by a water company. The bill removes water company-owned or –leased institutions and facilities from this exemption and instead establishes a new exemption specific to water companies (see EXEMPTION CREATED BY THE BILL below).

Records covered by existing law's exemption generally include security manuals or reports; operational specifications of security systems; and emergency plans and emergency preparedness, response, recovery, and mitigation plans. Water company records covered by this exemption include (1) vulnerability assessments and risk management plans; (2) operational plans; (3) portions of water supply plans that could result in a security risk if disclosed; (4) inspection reports; (5) technical specifications; and (6) other materials that depict or specifically describe critical water company operating facilities, collection and distribution systems, or supply sources.

Procedure for Determining Whether Exemption Applies

The bill makes a conforming change by eliminating the applicability to water company records of existing law's procedures for determining a security risk. Generally under these procedures, the administrative services or emergency services and public protection commissioner must determine whether there are reasonable grounds for a security risk after consulting with the chief executive officer of the agency with custody of the record. For water company records, the bill also eliminates requirements in current law that the (1) custodial agency notify the water company of the request and (2) respective commissioners consult with the water company's chief executive officer when determining if a security risk exists.

EXEMPTION CREATED BY THE BILL

The bill identifies the following water company records as exempt from disclosure:

1. cybersecurity plans and measures, supervisory control and data acquisition systems, information and communications systems, system access codes and specifications, vulnerability assessments, internal security audits, security manuals, security training or security reports, including security assessments, plans and procedures, operational and design specifications of facility security systems, or risk management plans;

2. emergency contingency plans and emergency preparedness plans, incident management plans, response, recovery, and mitigation plans or critical customer lists, including plans provided by a person to a state agency or a local emergency management agency or official, or documents or portions of documents that identify or describe procedures for sabotage prevention and response;

3. specific locations, detailed schematics and construction details of wells, source water intakes, water mains, tunnels, storage facilities, treatment facilities or pump stations and pressure reducing stations, and other distribution system pressure and flow control valves and facilities, provided information regarding general location of water mains, wells and interconnections shall be subject to disclosure;

4. dam specifications or safety plans;

5. building floor or structural plans, specifications of structural elements, or building security systems or codes;

6. detailed network topology maps;

7. specific locations of or specifications regarding electrical power, standby generators or fuel systems for water system facilities, except that general information regarding electrical power, standby generators or fuel systems for water system facilities may be disclosed;

8. operational specifications, schematics and procedures of treatment plant processes and associated equipment and chemicals, including facility use of chlorine gas storage and delivery and the location of chemicals, except that a general description of the treatment plant may be disclosed;

9. logs or other documents that contain information regarding the movement or assignment of water system facility and security personnel; and

10. distribution system hydraulic models.

In addition to these specified records, the bill also exempts from disclosure any other water company record if there are reasonable grounds to believe that the disclosure of the record may result in a security risk, including the risk of harm to any person. The water company must obtain a written determination from an executive branch state agency with cognizance of the matter that there are such reasonable grounds. However, it is unclear how a water company would obtain this determination if the records are requested from an agency other than the company (e.g., the Department of Public Health).

COMMITTEE ACTION

Public Health Committee

Joint Favorable Substitute

Yea

26

Nay

0

(03/24/2017)