By Henry Curtis
The Public Utilities Commission regulates all private drinking water, waste water, ground carriers, water carriers, telecommunication and energy companies.
Regulatory policy must be reasonable and consistent across regulatory proceedings.
Legislation can be introduced to standardize regulation after an interactive discussion among stakeholders. The get the ball rolling, Life of the Land has proposed the following.
Anybody can file application with the Commission. Once the docket is opened there is no time requirement, excluding rate cases, for any action by the Commission.
Proposal: The Commission must file some type of decision (schedule, issues or parties) within a year or the proceedings is automatically closed.
Dockets can languish for years without any action. The wheeling docket was opened in 2007 and nothing material has happened in years.
Proposal: Any docket which has no substantive action for two years is automatically closed.
Entities wishing to intervene in dockets to protect their interests are required to do so within 20 days of the docket being opened, even if this occurs over the Christmas – New Year holidays. The Commission is not required to rule on their filing. Some entities have had to wait years to find out if they are in dockets.
Proposal: Any motion to intervene in a docket is deemed approved unless the Commission determines otherwise within three months.
Who can access what data is determined by Confidentiality Agreements. There is no consistency about when they are filed or who can make suggestions.
Proposal: The Commission will establish and post a standardized confidentiality agreement. Any proposed deviation must be circulated among all parties and intervenors and may be approved by the Commission after it has determined who is in the docket.
In the past the Commission has approved confidentiality agreements that assert parties may ask that certain information be declassified, and at the same time the Commission has classified the title of the document and all pages including blank pages within the document.
Proposal: The title page and a brief description of all classified documents is deemed public information.
Some parties, in responses to Information Requests, include various reports. There is no current way of searching for these reports without opening each Information Request which can be several hundred megabytes in size.
Proposal: The Commission maintain on its web site a list of all reports filed with the Commission and where they can be found.
In the Information Age most documents exist in only electronic format. These can include emails and entire thick documents. Around the country rules on the discovery of electronic documents are being established. As the Senate has gone “paperless,” and HECO is considering the development of a telecommunications infrastructure to implement smart grids, the idea of creating and expanding electronic capabilities is growing.
Proposal: Electronic documents are discoverable.
Numerous wasted effort is made by parties filing brief standardized filings stating that they have no opinion on somebody else’s filing.
Proposal: Standardized documents stating that an entity has no opinion are banned.
In rate cases the Consumer Advocate files electronic Information Requests to HECO which HECO answers. A listing of the information requests is not made public until the end of the year-long discovery phase. This makes it difficult for outside entities to understand what is going on.
Proposal: All Information Requests must be timely filed with the Commission.
The Commission and HECO often meet in proceedings outside of formal dockets. At these meetings issues are discussed that impact open dockets. For example, the discussion may occur at the Hawaii Energy Policy Forum or at meetings of the National Association of Utility Commissioners (NARUC). It is often important that these meetings occur and that Commissioners attend to educate themselves about issues.
Proposal: The Commission maintain on its web site the Financial Disclosure Forms for the three Commissioners, the Chief Policy Advisory and the Chief Counsel. Included as part of the disclosure is an updated list of conferences and meetings attended.
There are many contested energy dockets with parties other than utilities and the Consumer Advocate. How these all fit together can be complex.
Proposal: The Commission maintain on its web page a table listing contested energy dockets, the parties and the next schedule event.
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