Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission

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Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission
General information
Office Type:  Nonpartisan
Office website:  Official Link
Total Seats:  5
Term limits:  None
Structure
Length of term:   5 years
Authority:  Pennsylvania Constitution, Article IV, Section 1
Leadership:  Robert Powelson
Selection Method:  Appointed by Governor
Other Pennsylvania Executive Offices
GovernorLieutenant GovernorSecretary of StateAttorney GeneralTreasurerAuditorSuperintendent of EducationAgriculture CommissionerInsurance CommissionerNatural Resources CommissionerLabor CommissionerPublic Service Commission
The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission is a five person state executive board in the Pennsylvania state government, responsible for oversight of the commonwealth's public utility industries. Commissioners are nominated to staggered, five-year terms by the Governor and confirmed by the state senate. [1]

Current officeholder

The current chairman is Robert Powelson. The vice chairman is John F. Coleman. They serve alongside Pamela Witmer and James Cawley. Wayne Gardner's term expired on April 1, 2013. Gladys Brown was appointed to replace Gardner on June 13, 2013. Her nomination is pending.[2]

Authority

Though the state constitution does not specifically create the public utility commission, it does allow for the addition of public officers in Article IV, Section 1:

All officers, whose selection is not provided for in this Constitution, shall be elected or appointed as may be directed by law.

Qualifications

There are no specific qualifications to serve on the Public Utility Commission.

Appointments

Public Utility Commissioners are not elected in Pennsylvania. The Governor nominates candidates for approval by the state senate, and the senate confirms the nominations by a two-thirds majority before the candidates assume office. Commissioners serve staggered, five-year terms.

Vacancies

Article IV, Section 8 of the Pennsylvania Constitution grants the governor the power to appoint officers to fill vacancies. In the event of a vacancy in the office, the governor nominates a successor. This nomination must be made to the commonwealth senate within 90 days of the vacancy. The senate must then take action (confirming or not confirming the nomination) within 25 legislative days.[3]

Duties

The Public Utility Commission is responsible for regulating Pennsylvania's public utility industries and protecting consumers. The commission works to ensure safe and reliable services, educate consumers about their utility options, and promote new technologies and markets.[4]

Specifically, the commission:

  • regulates approximately 6,000 electric, natural gas, telecommunications, water/wastewater, and transportation utilities
  • regulates electric, gas, and water distribution rates
  • regulates motor carries
  • inspects more than 40,000 miles of natural gas pipelines
  • inspects motor vehicles and railroad facilities
  • works to make high-speed Internet service more readily available[1]

Divisions

Click here to view a larger-scale image of the Pennsylvania PUC Organizational Chart as of March 25, 2013.

The Public Utility Commission has thirteen offices and bureaus that the various handle administrative, legal, legislative, regulatory, and financial duties of the commission.

Director of Operations' Office

The Director of Operations' Office is the central office in the department. The office coordinates the activities of all the other bureaus, and serves as a conduit for information between the commissioners and bureau/office directors.

Bureau of Audits

The Bureau of Audits conducts audits and investigations of Pennsylvania's fixed utilities. The bureau conducts three types of audits of approximately 32 fixed utilities every five to eight years, and of smaller utilities on an as-needed basis.

  • Adjustment clause audits -- State law mandates annual adjustment clause audits for certain utilities. These audits verify the costs incurred by utility companies and are used to determine how fairly the companies are charging their customers.
  • Financial audits -- Financial audits include original cost audits, original cost studies, and continuing property records audits.
  • Management audits -- These audits evaluate a utility company's management structure. They consider at the sustainability of both short- and long-term operations plans and the overall organizational structure. Separate from these management audits, the bureau conducts management efficiency investigations.

Bureau of Consumer Services

The Bureau of Consumer Services handles consumer complaints and provides information to consumers. The bureau also monitors utility company compliance with regulations. There are two divisions within the bureau: customer assistance and complaints; and policy.

Law Bureau

The Law Bureau provides comprehensive legal support to the commissioners, commission staff, and directors of all other bureaus. Their purview includes advising on regulatory matters and representing the commission in all jurisdiction actions before the state and federal courts, including appellate litigation.

Secretary's Bureau

The Secretary's Bureau provides a certifying signature for all official actions of the commission. The bureau handles certain administrative functions for the commission and manages all public meeting agendas.

Bureau of Transportation and Safety

The Bureau of Transportation and Safety regulates railroad, gas, and motor carrier safety. There are three divisions within the office:

  • Motor carrier services and enforcement -- The division inspects and audits companies that operating rucks, buses, taxis, and limousines within Pennsylvania to ensure compliance with the codes and regulations of the commission.
  • Rail safety -- The division monitors rail crossing and rail bridge safety and compliance with the Federal Railroad Administrations standards.
  • Gas safety -- The gas safety division manages the operation, maintenance, and damage prevention for transmission lines, main lines, service lines, regulator stations, compressor stations and gas meter installations.

Bureau of Administrative Services

The Bureau of Administrative Services provides administrative support to the commissioners and has several functions: fiscal, office services, budget, assessments, contracts, travel, management information systems, mail distribution, messenger service, stock room, printing and duplication, and automobile services.

Office of Administrative Law Judge

The Office of Administrative Law Judge offers conflict resolution from independent judges. The commission's policy is to encourage mediation in order to avoid litigation with a formal hearing process.

Bureau of Conservation Economics & Energy Planning

The Bureau of Conservation Economics & Energy Planning "conducts studies and research and performs policy and planning functions" for energy, water, and telecommunications utilities.[5]

Bureau of Fixed Utility Services

The Bureau of Fixed Utility Services advises the commission on rates, tariffs, and regulatory issues. It also reviews utility/municipal contracts, earning reports, county 911 plans, and service quality reports.

Legislative Affairs Office

The Legislative Affairs Office serves as a liaison between the commission and the [Pennsylvania General Assembly], Governor's office, U.S. Congress, and the National Association of Regulatory Review Commission.

Office of Special Assistants

The Office of Special Assistants provides assistance to all five of the commissioners. Staff members are responsible for preparing paperwork, reviewing conflict resolution decisions from administrative law judges, and reviewing petitions.

Office of Trial Staff

The Office of Trial Staff legally represents the commission on "all matters in the public interest except those involving transportation, safety, eminent domain, siting, service issues having no impact on rates, and ability to pay."[6]

Compensation

See also: Compensation of state executive officers

2012

In 2012, the commissioners were paid an estimated $141,750. This figure comes from the Council of State Governments.

2010

In 2010, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commissioners was paid an estimated $135,434 according to the Council of State Governments.[7]

Historical officeholders

Note: Ballotpedia's state executive officials project researches state official websites for chronological lists of historical officeholders. That information for the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission has not yet been added because the information was unavailable on the relevant state official websites, or we are currently in the process of formatting the list for this office. If you have any additional information about this office for inclusion on this section and/or page, please email us.

Recent news

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Contact information

The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission
Street Address:
400 North Street
Keystone Building
Harrisburg, PA 17120
Phone: 1-800-692-7380

Mailing Address:
P.O. Box 3265
Harrisburg, PA 17105-3265

Department address listing
Staff telephone directory

See also

External links

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References