The Delaware Riverkeeper Network’s (“DRN”) request for the release of information collected by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s (“DEP”) Bureau of Radiation Protection was denied by the Commonwealth Court this week.
The DRN filed a Right to Know request with the DEP seeking the data underlying its Techologically Enhanced Naturally-Occurring Radioactive Material (TENORM) Study. The study was a comprehensive study of potential radiation exposure resulting from materials generated by oil and gas exploration and production activities. While the DEP did release information about the study per the request, it did not release its underlying sample data claiming the data was protected from disclosure by § 708(b) as noncriminal investigative records and internal pre-decisional deliberations.
DRN appealed the decision to the Office of Open Records, which agreed with DRN. However, DEP appealed to Commonwealth Court, which found that because DEP collected the sampling data in compliance with its monitoring mandate under the Radiation Protection Act, its collection was the result of “a systematic or searching inquiry, a detailed examination, or an official probe” in the course of DEP’s official duties. Therefore it constituted a noncriminal investigation, which § 708(b)(17) exempts from RTKL disclosure.