MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — A Democratic candidate for Public Service Commission President is questioning a newly adopted rule by the commission restricting recordings of formal hearings.
The rule was signed and adopted on March 5, 2020. It requires people who want to record a formal hearing to obtain written permission from the commission five days prior to the hearing.
The rule was adopted just days before a contested formal hearing involving Alabama Power, which begins Monday, March 9, 2020, at 10 a.m.
It evolved from a previous hearing last November involving solar energy advocates where three people were escorted from the hearing for recording or broadcasting. They were told they would be able to return if they stopped recording.
One of those was Laura Casey, who is running for the PSC president seat. Casey filed a lawsuit in December accusing the PSC of violating Alabama’s Open Meetings Act by preventing people from recording. The case asks for a court declaration that the utility regulatory commission violated the state’s Open Meetings Act which allows the recording of public meetings. It also asks for a fine.
In a press release, Casey said, These rules are illegal. Our legislature, State Supreme Court and federal appeals courts have repeatedly affirmed the right of the public to record our government officials, both under the Alabama Open Meetings Act and under the First Amendment. The PSC is governed by both.
The rule also applies to media outlets, restricting the number of cameras allowed in the hearing. The Public Service Commission said the rule was necessary to preserve the integrity of formal hearings.
The hearing Monday is to consider a certificate of convenience and necessity over a proposed new natural gas unit at Barry Steam Plant in Mobile County.
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