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PUCs at 2000 - Question OneState Commissioners

Fortnightly Magazine - November 15 1995

To say that we are restructuring with the same fervor we devote to utility regulation understates somewhat the serious attention that we have devoted to regulatory change in Wyoming in 1995. We have refocused the duties, responsibilities, and obligations of nearly every PSC employee.

This process represents a dramatic philosophical shift. Instead of waiting for industry to present proposals for our reaction, the PSC is now working actively to understand industries better and to bring forth initiatives for industry. To reinforce our commitment to actively pursue needed initiatives, we have created a project coordination team to identify tasks and set aggressive deadlines for specific projects, and a customer service and consumer affairs section that handles customer complaints but that also has expanded capabilities to deliver consumer education and support services.

Since March 1995, the PSC has begun three telecommunications rulemaking projects that emphasize improving service quality and providing interconnection standards for competitive entry. We have begun a study of the barriers to competition, opened hearings on our major local exchange company's pricing plan (the first such filing under Wyoming's new telecommunications law, which is among the most procompetitive in the nation), organized a study of Wyoming's telecommunications infrastructure, and prepared a comprehensive report to the governor and legislature on the status of the Wyoming telecommunications. In the electric industry, we have begun a rulemaking for rural electric distribution cooperatives to simplify regulatory oversight. We have also begun a natural gas initiative addressing the challenges to retail customers in choosing commodity suppliers.

Our future focus must be on the customer. When the customer selects a natural gas, electricity, or telecommunications service provider, the PSC must be sure that the customer gets safe, reliable, and high-quality service at a price that fairly reflects its market value. Because utility services are increasingly competitive and technologically complex, our consumer affairs group must reach out to customers through town meetings, educational forums, and dialogues.

Commissions traditionally spoke only through written orders. While orders will remain important, we must also communicate with the public and industry at every opportunity. Technological and legal changes in regulated industries, the competitive reorientation of monopoly service providers, and the proliferation of competitive commodity suppliers will make this communication more vital than ever before. If our PSC is to be successful in the new utility world, our goal must be well-informed customers enjoying more - and better - service choices and options than ever before at lower competitive prices than traditional regulation could achieve. [End of Ellenbecker response]

Response by Boyce Griffith, Chairman, West Virginia Public Service Commission:

The West Virginia PSC will be around in 2000. In some areas of regulation it will look very much the same as today. In other areas of regulation it will not. Regulation as we know it for communication, gas, and industry will fade. Regulation of problems for these utilities have already surfaced and will change the complexion of the PSC. [End of Griffith response]

Response by Lawrence B. Ingram, Chairman, New Mexico Public Utility Commission:

Unless the crystal ball gets confused by actions of state