DR 97-186
            New Hampshire Electric Cooperative, Inc.
       Petition for Approval of Purchased Power Agreement
             Order Granting Confidential Treatment 
                    O R D E R   N O.  23,132
                        February 1, 1999
       On September 9, 1997, the New Hampshire Electric
     Cooperative (NHEC) filed with the New Hampshire Public Utilities
     Commission (Commission) a petition for Approval of a Purchase
     Power Contract (Contract) between NHEC and Waste Management of
     New Hampshire, Inc. (WMNH).  At that time, NHEC also filed a
     Motion for Confidential Treatment order covering the terms of the
       The Contract provides for the purchase of 4.4 MW of
     baseload capacity produced at WMNH's landfill gas recovery
     facility located in Rochester, New Hampshire.  The Contract was
     negotiated pursuant to the procedures approved by the Commission
     in Re New Hampshire Electric Cooperative, Inc.,80 NH PUC 489
     (1995) for purchases of power from Qualifying Facilities (QF)
     under the federal Public Utilities Regulatory Policy Act of 1978
     (PURPA) and RSA 362-A (LEEPA).  The procedure adopted by the
     Commission allowed NHEC to issue requests for proposals (RFP) for
     the purpose of soliciting competitive bids from QFs, thereby
     meeting NHEC's PURPA and LEEPA obligations to purchase QF power
     at its avoided cost.   
       NHEC avers that the Contract contains sensitive
     confidential, commercial and financial information that would
     cause harm to NHEC, its members, and WMNH if it were released to
     the public.  NHEC asserts that revelation of this information to
     persons who might use such information in any future RFPs issued
     by NHEC would frustrate NHEC's ability to obtain the least cost
     and most beneficial terms for its members.  NHEC also asserts
     that public disclosure of the contract would reveal sensitive
     cost information concerning WMNH's Rochester facility and its
     operation.  Thus, NHEC asserted the information is exempt from
     disclosure under RSA 91-A:5,IV and N.H. Admin. Rules, Puc 204.06. 
       Pursuant to RSA 91-A, all government meetings and
     records shall be open and available to the public unless they
     fall within a narrow set of exemptions set forth at RSA 91-A:5. 
     See generally, Union Leader Corporation v. New Hampshire Housing
     Authority, 142 N.H. 540 (1997).  RSA 91-A:5,IV provides that
     records pertaining to "confidential, commercial, or financial
     information" are exempt from the general provisions of the
     Right-to-Know Law that would otherwise subject such information
     to disclosure.  We believe the subject information contained in
     the Contract falls within the definition of commercial or
     financial information addressed by RSA 91-A:5, IV. 
       The New Hampshire Supreme Court has held, however, that
     information that falls into one of these categories is not, per
     se, exempt from disclosure.  Union Leader Corp., 142 N.H. 540,
     553.  Rather, the Court has held that the negative impact of
     disclosure of the "commercial or financial interest must be
     balanced against the public's interest in disclosure."  Id.; 
     Accord, Re New England Telephone Company (Auditel), 80 NHPUC 437
     (1995); Re Bell Atlantic, Order No. 22,851 (February 17, 1998);
     Re EnergyNorth Natural Gas, Inc., Order No. 22,859 (February 24,
       Applying this balancing test to the case at hand, we
     conclude that NHEC has demonstrated that the public's interest in
     disclosure is outweighed by the potential competitive harm to
     NHEC, its members and WMNH.  Thus, the motion will be granted
     subject to further review upon any request by the public to
     review the material pursuant to RSA 91-A.
       Based upon the foregoing, it is hereby
       ORDERED, that the New Hampshire Electric Cooperative,
     Inc.'s Motion for Confidential Treatment is GRANTED; and it is
       FURTHER ORDERED, that this Protective Order is subject
     to the reconsideration under RSA 91-A, on motion of the
     Commission, on motion of Staff, on motion any party or on the
     motion of any other member of the public, at which time the New
     Hampshire Electric Cooperative, Inc. and Waste Management of New
     Hampshire, Inc. shall bear the burden of maintaining the
     confidential treatment granted herein.
       By order of the Public Utilities Commission of New
     Hampshire this first day of February, 1999.
           Douglas L. Patch       Susan S. Geiger     Nancy Brockway
               Chairman           Commissioner          Commissioner
     Attested by:
     Thomas B. Getz
     Executive Director and Secretary