January’s Public Utilities Fortnightly includes 27 pages on our visit to the Maine PUC. Here's an excerpt from an interview with Faith Huntington, Maine PUC's Director of Electricity and Natural Gas Division:
“We are advisors to the Commission, but we’re also active participants in the case and oftentimes will submit our own analyses in the form of a “bench analysis” into the case. Parties then would have the right to discovery and cross-examination on the staff bench analysis.
In this sense, we’re a blend of advisors to the Commission and, what some states have, and what we used to have, which is an advocate staff. We perform some of the functions that advocate staffs do, such as submitting analyses into cases, but we also advise the commissioners.
I like it, and, more important, I believe that it produces better case records and decisions. In terms of the cross-examination, the parties that appear before the Commission are professional and cordial, and the tone in the hearing room is generally one of mutual respect. It doesn’t get nasty.”