The PUC issued an Order granting VFDA’s request to treat volumetric information and the identities of supplier and client business information as confidential when registering under the Clean Heat Act.   Registration is required under the Affordable Heat Act so that the PUC can determine whether a registrant would be considered an obligated party and the amount of the obligated party’s annual clean heat credit requirement.

In its Order, the PUC initially determined that the Affordable Heat Act does not require publication of such information on its website pursuant to 30 V.S.A. § 8124(b).   The list of registrants is required to be published under this statutory provision, not the entire contents of the registration forms.

Applying its longstanding three part test, the PUC determined that volumetric, supplier and customer information should be kept confidential because such information is a trade secret.  Specifically, the PUC held that the combination of supplier lists paired with volume data constitute a trade secret.  Such information is commercially sensitive and disclosure would cause cognizable harm to warrant confidential treatment.  In doing so, the PUC also noted the public policy interest to collect accurate and complete information from fuel dealers to carry out the Affordable Heat Act.

30 V.S.A. § 8124(b)(3) requires that the registration information be shared with the Department of Public Service (Department) and the Agency of National Resources (ANR).  Because of the confidential designation of the volumetric, supplier, and customer information, ANR and the Department will need to enter into a protective agreement to permit the sharing of this information.   If these entities do not enter into such an agreement, the PUC may supply only summary data to the Department and ANR.

In conclusion, the PUC Ordered that:

1. Information provided in response to questions about heating fuel overview and for each type of heating fuel imported, purchased or sold will be kept confidential.

2. Parties who seek such confidential information for this or other proceedings must file a motion to access the confidential information and an accompanying protected order for approval by the PUC.

3. Confidential treatment will expire within five years from that date it is provided to the PUC.

4. The Department and ANR must submit for the PUC’s approval a protective agreement to facilitate sharing of the confidential information no later than February 14, 2024.

5. In any future matter, the burden on establishing the confidential treatment of this information is on the party seeking to avoid disclosure.