The Utilities and Transportation Commission (Commission) regulates privately-owned utility and transportation companies providing certain goods and services, including: electricity and natural gas, community solar projects, landline telecommunications, solid waste collection, water systems, natural gas and hazardous liquid pipelines, railroad carriers, residential movers, commercial ferries, passenger buses, low-level nuclear waste storage, and marine pilotage. Generally, the Commission regulates rates, service quality, consumer protection, and safety measures.
The Commission is almost entirely funded through fees paid by the regulated companies based on a percentage of intrastate gross operating revenues reported by those companies annually. Electric, natural gas, telecommunications, wastewater, and water companies regulated by the Commission must pay a regulatory fee equal to 0.1 percent of the first $50,000 of gross operating revenue, plus 0.2 percent of gross operating revenue in excess of $50,000. The collected fees are deposited in the Public Service Revolving Account to cover expenses of operation of the Commission, subject to appropriation by the Legislature. The Commission may, by rule, set minimum fees that do not exceed the cost of collecting the fees and may also waive any or all of the minimum fees.
When establishing fees, the Commission considers the funds available in the Public Service Revolving Account and determines the amounts required to fund the Commission's costs of supervising and regulating each industry. The fees are established by general order through a process with open public meetings. The Commission is required to issue an order to set the regulatory fee for each industry by March 1 of each year.
Regulated electric, natural gas, telecommunications, and water companies must pay the Utilities and Transportation Commission a fee equal to 0.4 percent of intrastate gross operating revenues in excess of $50,000, increased from 0.2 percent.
(In support) The Utilities and Transportation Commission (Commission) has not had a fee increase in more than a decade and one is overdue. The fund balance is declining at an accelerating rate as the Commission's expenditures are outpacing its revenue. The Commission projects that the fund balance will go negative in Fiscal Year 2023 before they receive the fees from the regulated companies in May 2023. The Commission will end the year without sufficient funding to maintain a positive fund balance through the ensuing biennium. Increases in expenditures are due to more complex rate cases and the Commission's role in the transformational energy policies enacted by the Legislature in recent years as well as increases in general wages, rent, and information technology costs. The Commission experiences staff turnover at a time when it is difficult to attract and retain people. It is to everyone's benefit to have qualified people in the Commission working on behalf of customers, and additional funding can help with hiring and retention. With proper staffing, the Commission will be able to better scrutinize the general rate requests and better positioned to lower energy bills. The rate impacts of the fee increase will be very modest, ranging from 7 cents to 22 cents per month on utility bills that average over $100 per month.
(Other) The fines and penalties for violations by public service companies regulated by the Commission, including railroad safety violations, also need to be revised to appropriate levels. These were originally enacted in 1911 and a revision is long overdue.