Utah Ratepayers Association
Education and Lobbying for Ratepayers of Utility-type Services with Limited or No Alternatives
Public Service Commission
Considers Changing its
Public Service Commission Considers Changing its Procedural Rules
Will it be harder for individual consumers, and groups such as the Utah Ratepayers Association, to be heard?
To read the
comments posted on the Commission's website, click on:
Notice of Public Meeting
On 2 May,
the Public Service Commission issued a Notice of Public Meeting, saying it was
"considering conducting a rulemaking process
to update and modify Utah Administrative Rule No. R746-100, which deals with practice and procedures for formal hearings conducted by the Commission."
The Commission solicited "comments from members of the public, companies and attorneys for their suggestions on possible changes, deletions or additions that may be considered" and invited "Interested persons ... to submit written comments for proposed rule changes to the Commission by June 1, 2007."
It gave notice "that a Public Meeting will be held on Wednesday, June 6, 2007 at 9:30 a.m., Fourth Floor, Room No. 401, Heber M. Wells State Office Building, 160 East 300 South, Salt Lake City, Utah."
To see a copy of the Commission's Notice of Public Meeting, click on: http://www.psc.utah.gov/misc/07orders/May/07R10001nopm.pdf.
Taxation Without Representation
By Larry Norman - Salt Lake Tribune - Sunday, 3 June 2007
The Public Service Commission used to hold hearings during which utility rate increases were openly litigated.
The utilities would ask for what they wanted; the Division of Public Utilities would offer comprehensive evidence in support of just and reasonable rates; the Committee of Consumer Services would advocate vigorously in the interests of ratepayers; individual customers and groups were listened to respectfully; then the commission made its decision.
But open and honest testimony inconveniences and embarrasses the utilities when it reveals the extent of their greed, so they have lobbied assiduously for years to persuade governors, attorneys general and state legislators to neuter their regulators. Both the division and committee are under the aegis of the Department of Commerce, whose executive director answers directly to the governor, and their lawyers answer to the attorney general.
The committee was designed and created as an independent entity to protect utility ratepayers' interests. But it has fallen entirely under political control; the governor appoints its members and chairman.
The division is supposed to present comprehensive evidence to the commission to enable it to set just and reasonable rates. But both agencies now prefer to quietly negotiate rate increases with the utilities and have them rubber-stamped by the commission.
Questar, the commission, division and committee have tried their utmost to prevent ratepayers from overturning a rate increase to pay for the extraction of carbon dioxide from coal-seam gas and to make the gas safe to burn in our furnaces. The Utah Supreme Court rejected an earlier rate increase for this purpose, and now we have had to ask it once again to do what the regulators would not.
More recently, Questar, the regulatory agencies and the politicians were upset when individual ratepayers offered forthright testimony in opposition to another rate-hike agreement. So the commission wants to change the rules so that private negotiations for rate increases won't be disrupted in the future.
The commission will hold a public meeting on the rule changes at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday in Room 401 of the Heber M. Wells Building, 160 E. 300 South, Salt Lake City. For more information go to www.utahratepayers.org, or call the Utah Ratepayers Association at 801-998-8511.
LARRY NORMAN is a Questar customer and stockholder. He is Bursar of the Utah Ratepayers Association.
Last Modified: 3 June 2007