A Day at Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission
David Sweet is Pennsylvania Utility Commissioner.
Steve Mitnick is Editor-in-Chief of Public Utilities Fortnightly and author of the book “Lines Down: How We Pay, Use, Value Grid Electricity Amid the Storm.”
PUF’s Steve Mitnick: What’s it like to be a commissioner at the Pennsylvania PUC? What’s your average day like?
David Sweet: The average workload is, to some extent, like that of an appellate court judge. There’s a lot of reading. There’s back and forth with your own staff, much like an appellate judge would be going back and forth with his or her clerks. We don’t spend a lot of time talking to the actual petitioners or litigators.
The actual litigation in Pennsylvania is held in front of an administrative law judge, and we work from the paper created from that proceeding and the record. The frustrating thing is, because of our Sunshine Law, we never really meet to discuss the cases.
PUF: The commissioners don’t meet to discuss the cases?
David Sweet: The five of us cannot meet; to be precise, a quorum of the commission can’t meet to discuss the cases. There are certain exceptions for personnel, litigation, matters like that. But, as to the heart of the work, we can’t discuss cases together.
PUF: It sounds like two commissioners can speak about an issue, but if a third one joins in, you’ve got to break it up. Then you have the public meeting every two weeks, where you can discuss cases in front of everyone.