FOIA Lawsuit Seeks Release of U.S. Department of Energy’s ‘Water-Energy Roadmap’

FOIA Lawsuit Seeks Release of U.S. Department of Energy’s ‘Water-Energy Roadmap’ by Brett Walton, June 28, 2011, Circle of Blue
Water Meets Energy. … A lawsuit filed this week in Federal District Court in Massachusetts accuses the U.S. Department of Energy of withholding a crucial study on how to solve the national confrontation between water supply and energy demand that was ordered up by Congress in 2005 and never made public. The suit—brought by the Massachusetts-based Civil Society Institute (CSI) under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and the Administrative Procedure Act (APA)—demands the Energy Department to release the study, known as the National Energy-Water Roadmap, and to make public a score of documents used in the study’s preparation. The roadmap required two reports, the first of which was completed by federal scientists at Sandia National Laboratories and was published in 2006. The second report, which would set research priorities and outline recommendations, has been held up by the DOE. The lawsuit was prompted by an article last September in Choke Point: U.S., Circle of Blue’s investigation of the tightening confrontation between energy production and diminishing water supplies in the United States. “…[CSI is] deeply concerned by the appearance that the study was done and then buried—or is currently being watered down…”

CSI is not the only organization frustrated by the Energy Department’s unwillingness to disclose the National Energy-Water Roadmap. Earlier this month, the U.S. Senate began considering the Energy and Water Integration Act, legislation that would mandate more studies on water and energy efficiency and conservation, research on current water use for energy production—both in transport fuels and electricity generation—and technological evaluations. The Senate proposal calls for shifting the research and report production from the Energy Department to the National Academy of Sciences.

In many parts of the country, water shortages are already undermining energy production. Just this month, a drought in Texas has caused a scramble for water among natural gas drilling companies and has forced regulators to take a second look at approving a coal-fired power plant on the lower Colorado River because of the amount of cooling water that would need to be used. “Without this Roadmap,” Solo said in her statement, “water availability and water quality issues remain unaddressed. As a result, Congress and the President are flying blind….”

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