FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Sheridan Brown
DES Responds to Avoid Legal Action, Governor Chris Sununu Stands in Way
Grantham, NH – (10/23) In response to a threat of legal action last week by Attorney Sheridan Brown of Grantham, the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services has responded to Brown’s Right to Know request after more than two months of delay.
Now Governor Chris Sununu is blocking the release of the documents sought: correspondence from Sununu to federal agencies on critical environmental matters, including the Trump administration’s proposal for oil drilling off the New Hampshire coast and the repeal of the federal Clean Water Rule.
A privilege log provided to Brown lists thirty items that Sununu’s office claims are exempt from disclosure, but cites specific authority in New Hampshire’s Right to Know Law (RSA 91-A) for only a few of those items.
“Although the Governor’s Office is exempt from the Right to Know Law, and draft documents are exempt, final documents in the hands of agencies—even from the Governor—are subject to disclosure as public records. It is these final letters to federal agencies that I am seeking. There is no broad executive privilege that allows the Governor to prevent their release by a state agency.”
Brown will take the matter to Superior Court in the future, but he is not seeking an expedited hearing because he already knows what he suspected: Chris Sununu is weighing in on environmental regulatory matters and taking positions at odds with most Granite Staters.
The only other possibility Brown sees is that there are no final documents because Governor Sununu has never written a letter to federal environmental officials standing up for New Hampshire’s natural resources.
Brown noted that the privilege log, which is supposed to disclose the existence of all documents responsive to a request, including those for which privilege is claimed, lists not one piece of correspondence related to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) that have extensively contaminated groundwater in the greater Merrimack and seacoast regions. Dealing with PFAS contamination was purportedly a major priority for the Governor.
“Just as Chris Sununu has worked to roll back NH wetlands protections for his commercial construction and developer donors, I suspect he weighed in against federal protections for clean water and other natural resources that that are not popular among a large segment of his donor base.”
Brown has recently published a website, NH Not for Sale, https://nhnotforsale.com where he has compiled a searchable database of Sununu contributors from the commercial construction industry and others. Brown has also analyzed Sununu’s actions in rolling back wetlands protections in ways sought by the construction industry.
The response and Privilege Log Brown received from NHDES can be viewed here.