The Metro Chamber partnered with the Sacramento Utility Management District (SMUD) and many of its state and local partners, including business improvement districts and fellow chambers of commerce, to fend off Assembly Bill 1520 at the California state legislature. In its original form, the bill would have amended the Public Records Act to require public utilities to disclose industrial, institutional and commercial customers’ usage data – without the customer’s knowledge or consent – to any person who requested it.
After fierce opposition, the bill was amended to require disclosure only of water agency customers, but the same arguments remained, and ultimately, the coalition succeeded in forcing AB 1520’s withdraw from floor consideration.
The California Public Record Act exists to ensure accountability of government agencies, not to serve as a cudgel for providing unrestricted access to sensitive records whose disclosure could work a competitive disadvantage to a business consumer.
Moreover, the Metro Chamber believes the protection of business data should be uniform. Because privately-held utilities are not bound by the Public Records Act, AB 1520 would have created two classes of customers, with only those receiving service from public agencies facing the risk of, and attendant harm from, disclosure.
Lastly, the fact the California legislature had previously codified a customer’s right to privacy in utility consumption tipped the proponents’ hands that they were seeking to leverage record disclosure to publicly shame companies for their consumption. The Metro Chamber will oppose these efforts to the extent possible, as usage rates, standing alone without a broader context of the societal benefit provided by the use, are too easily to mischaracterize and demonize.