We recently sent a letter to Captain Douglas M. Fears, chief of staff of the U.S. Coast Guard Atlantic Area, to understand a puzzling letter he sent us on Jan. 27, 2016, that asserts a “lack of corporate memory” by the Coast Guard about a critical offshore wind energy study that took five years to produce.
It’s a strange response to repeated attempts to obtain electronic records that could help answer basic questions about the role the shipping lobby played in spurring the study and guiding its conclusions.
Computer Records, Not Corporate Memory
Specifically, we’ve requested records of Dana Goward’s, Gary Rasicot’s, George Detweiler’s and Emile Benard’s communications with other members of the Working Group and outside stakeholders regarding the ACPARS study from its inception in 2011. Both Goward and Rasicot served as co-chairs of the study, while Benard served as Project Manager, and Detweiler is currently working in the Office of Navigation Systems.
As we’ve reported, the study was supposed to balance President Obama’s goal of growing a U.S. offshore wind energy industry with shipping navigation near busy coastal ports. Our reporting since March 2016 shows the American Waterways Operators (AWO) leveraged its close, 20-year partnership with the Coast Guard to exercise pervasive influence over the study’s final recommendations, which was released on March 11, 2016.
Unfortunately, the Coast Guard has blocked our attempts to obtain lawful public records nearly every step of the way, a pattern detailed in the Office of Government Information Services’ (OGIS) Compliance Review of the Coast Guard’s Freedom of Information Act Program released in 2015.
The public has the right to obtain vital information about this important, taxpayer-funded report, which could hinder the growth of an offshore wind industry early in its growth.
The continued obfuscation is not doing any favors for the Coast Guard’s record of transparency. The questions aren’t going away – they are only growing.
You can read our entire letter here.
Evlondo Cooper is a senior fellow with Checks and Balances Project, a national watchdog blog that seeks to hold government officials, lobbyists, and corporate management accountable to the public. Funding for C&BP comes from sustainable economy philanthropies and donors.
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