Creates the state office of the utility consumer advocate to represent interests of residential utility customers.
TITLE OF BILL: An act to amend the executive law and the public service law, in relation to creating the state office of the utility consumer advocate
PURPOSE OR GENERAL IDEA OF BILL: This bill would create the State Office of the Utility Consumer Advocate.
SUMMARY OF PROVISIONS:
Section 1 amends subdivision 2 of section 94-a of the executive law by adding a new paragraph d which would require the Secretary of State to provide an estimate to the Department of Public Service prior to the start of each fiscal year, for the funds necessary to operate the State Office of the Utility Consumer Advocate.
Section 2 amends paragraph a of subdivision 4 of section 94-a of the executive law and provides for the creation of the State Office of the Utility Consumer Advocate who is charged with representing the interests of residential utility customers. This section sets the appointment process, term of the appointment, and general duties for the Utility Consumer Advocate.
Section 3 amends subparagraph i and ii of paragraph b of subdivision 4 of section 94-a of the executive law and outlines the instances in which the Utility Consumer Advocate may intervene and/or bring actions on behalf of residential utility customers.
Section 4 amends subdivision 4 of section 94-a of the executive law by adding a new paragraph c that further outlines the Utility Consumer Advocate's authority and duties.
Section 5 amends paragraph a of subdivision 2 of section 18-a of the public service law to require the Chairman of the Public Services Commission to include the cost estimate provided in paragraph d of subdivision two of section 94-a of the executive law with the total assessment to be paid by each assessed public utility company.
Section 6 sets the effective date.
JUSTIFICATION: Currently more than 40 states and the District of Columbia have an independent state agency that represents the interests of residential utility customers. New York is one of few states, and by far the largest, without such an independent office. In the wake of Superstorm Sandy, Hurricane Irene, and Tropical Storm Lee, consumers in New York have been left without a voice and real representation when it comes to utility services.
This bill would create the State Office of the Utility Consumer Advocate to serve as an independent advocate and appear on behalf of New York consumers in state and federal regulatory proceedings, as well as judicial review proceedings concerning rates and conditions of public service utilities. Currently consumers in New York are represented by the Public Service Commission as well as the Utility Intervention Unit, a division of the Department of State. Neither of them is able to act solely on behalf of the interest of consumers.
The Public Service Commission mediates the competing interests of utilities and others in their proceedings to develop facts upon which their decisions are ultimately based. The utility providers as well as large commercial and industrial customers have an active and able presence in such proceedings; however there is a glaring lack of input from any parties representing consumers. The Utility Intervention Unit operates under the direction of the Secretary of the State, who has created a non-statutory subordinate at-will position for the Director of the Utility Intervention Unit. The Utility Consumer Advocate would be appointed by the Governor, subject to Senate confirmation, and would serve a term of six years similar to the Chairman of the Public Service Commission. Therefore the Utility Consumer Advocate would not be an at-will employee subject to removal without cause by the Secretary of State or Governor. This would allow for actual independent action on behalf of residential consumers without the concern of removal for such action.
In other states where such an office exists residential consumers have seen drastic savings in comparison to the actual amount of funding that goes to these offices. California's Division of Ratepayer Advocates lobbied over 200 times on behalf of California consumers and saved them over $4 billion in rates saved and increases avoided; in fact, they estimate that for every $1 spent representing and advocating on behalf of California's public utility customers, the average customer saved $153 per year The creation of an appointed advocate with the powers allotted in this bill would give New York utility customers a voice at the table, save them a considerable amount of money when it comes to the utilities they use every day.
PRIOR LEGISLATIVE HISTORY: This is a New Bill.
FISCAL IMPLICATIONS: None to the State.
EFFECTIVE DATE: This act shall take effect of the first of April next succeeding the date on which it shall have become law
STATE OF NEW YORK ________________________________________________________________________ 4550--A 2013-2014 Regular Sessions IN SENATE April 10, 2013 ___________Introduced by Sens. SAVINO, ADDABBO, AVELLA, CARLUCCI, ESPAILLAT, GRISANTI, HANNON, HASSELL-THOMPSON, HOYLMAN, KENNEDY, KLEIN, KRUEGER, LATIMER, MONTGOMERY, PARKER, SAMPSON, SQUADRON, TKACZYK, VALESKY -- read twice and ordered printed, and when printed to be committed to the Committee on Finance -- recommitted to the Committee on Finance in accordance with Senate Rule 6, sec. 8 -- committee discharged, bill amended, ordered reprinted as amended and recommitted to said commit- tee AN ACT to amend the executive law and the public service law, in relation to creating the state office of the utility consumer advocate THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK, REPRESENTED IN SENATE AND ASSEM- BLY, DO ENACT AS FOLLOWS: Section 1. Subdivision 2 of section 94-a of the executive law is amended by adding a new paragraph (d) to read as follows: (D) THE SECRETARY, UPON ADVICE OF THE STATE OFFICE OF THE UTILITY CONSUMER ADVOCATE, SHALL PROVIDE TO THE DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SERVICE AN ESTIMATE PRIOR TO THE START OF EACH FISCAL YEAR OF THE TOTAL COSTS AND EXPENSES, EXCEPT ANY FUNDS APPROPRIATED FOR THE UTILITY INTERVENTION UNIT, INCLUDING THE COMPENSATION AND EXPENSES OF THE STATE OFFICE OF THE UTILITY CONSUMER ADVOCATE, ITS OFFICERS, AGENTS AND EMPLOYEES, AND INCLUDING THE COST OF RETIREMENT CONTRIBUTIONS, SOCIAL SECURITY, HEALTH AND DENTAL INSURANCE, SURVIVOR'S BENEFITS, WORKERS' COMPENSATION, UNEM- PLOYMENT INSURANCE AND OTHER FRINGE BENEFITS REQUIRED TO BE PAID BY THE STATE FOR THE PERSONNEL OF THE STATE OFFICE OF THE UTILITY CONSUMER ADVOCATE, AND INCLUDING ALL OTHER ITEMS OF MAINTENANCE AND OPERATION EXPENSES, AND ALL OTHER DIRECT AND INDIRECT COSTS. S 2. Paragraph (a) of subdivision 4 of section 94-a of the executive law, as added by section 21 of part A of chapter 62 of the laws of 2011, is amended to read as follows: (a) There is established within the division a state utility inter- vention unit AND THE STATE OFFICE OF THE UTILITY CONSUMER ADVOCATE TOEXPLANATION--Matter in ITALICS (underscored) is new; matter in brackets [ ] is old law to be omitted. LBD09713-06-4 S. 4550--A 2
REPRESENT THE INTERESTS OF RESIDENTIAL UTILITY CUSTOMERS. THE UTILITY CONSUMER ADVOCATE, WHO SHALL HEAD THE STATE OFFICE OF THE UTILITY CONSUMER ADVOCATE, SHALL BE APPOINTED BY THE GOVERNOR TO A TERM OF SIX YEARS, SUBJECT TO SENATE CONFIRMATION. THE UTILITY CONSUMER ADVOCATE SHALL POSSESS KNOWLEDGE AND EXPERIENCE IN MATTERS AFFECTING RESIDENTIAL UTILITY CUSTOMERS, SHALL BE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE DIRECTION, CONTROL, AND OPERATION OF THE UTILITY INTERVENTION UNIT, INCLUDING ITS HIRING OF STAFF AND RETENTION OF EXPERTS FOR ANALYSIS AND TESTIMONY IN PROCEEDINGS. THE UTILITY CONSUMER ADVOCATE SHALL NOT BE REMOVED EXCEPT FOR CAUSE. EXERCISE OF INDEPENDENT JUDGMENT IN ADVOCATING POSITIONS ON BEHALF OF RESIDENTIAL UTILITY CUSTOMERS SHALL NOT CONSTITUTE CAUSE FOR REMOVAL OF THE UTILITY CONSUMER ADVOCATE. S 3. Subparagraphs (i) and (ii) of paragraph (b) of subdivision 4 of section 94-a of the executive law, as amended by section 12 of part A of chapter 173 of the laws of 2013, are amended to read as follows: (i)
[on behalf of the secretary,]initiate, intervene in, or partic- ipate ON BEHALF OF RESIDENTIAL UTILITY CUSTOMERS in any proceedings before the public service commission or the department of public service, INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED to the extent authorized by sections three-b, twenty-four-a, seventy-one, eighty-four or ninety-six of the public service law or any other applicable provision of law, THE FEDERAL ENERGY REGULATORY COMMISSION, THE FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION, FEDERAL, STATE AND LOCAL ADMINISTRATIVE AND REGULATORY AGENCIES, AND STATE AND FEDERAL COURTS IN ANY MATTER OR PROCEEDING THAT MAY SUBSTAN- TIALLY AFFECT THE INTERESTS OF RESIDENTIAL UTILITY CUSTOMERS, INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO, A PROPOSED CHANGE OF RATES, CHARGES, TERMS AND CONDITIONS OF SERVICE, THE ADOPTION OF RULES, REGULATIONS, GUIDELINES, ORDERS, STANDARDS OR FINAL POLICY DECISIONS where [he or she]THE UTILI- TY CONSUMER ADVOCATE deems such initiation, intervention or partic- ipation to be necessary or appropriate; (ii) represent the interests of [consumers]RESIDENTIAL UTILITY CUSTOMERS of the state before federal, state and local administrative and regulatory agencies engaged in the regulation of energy [services], TELECOMMUNICATIONS, WATER AND OTHER UTILITY SERVICES, AND BEFORE STATE AND FEDERAL COURTS IN ACTIONS AND PROCEEDINGS TO REVIEW THE ACTIONS OF UTILITIES OR ORDERS OF UTILITY REGULATORY AGENCIES. ANY ACTION OR PROCEEDING BROUGHT BY THE UTILITY CONSUMER ADVOCATE BEFORE A COURT OR AN AGENCY SHALL BE BROUGHT IN THE NAME OF THE STATE OFFICE OF THE UTILITY CONSUMER ADVOCATE. THE UTILITY CONSUMER ADVOCATE MAY JOIN WITH A RESI- DENTIAL UTILITY CUSTOMER OR GROUP OF RESIDENTIAL UTILITY CUSTOMERS IN BRINGING AN ACTION; S 4. Subdivision 4 of section 94-a of the executive law is amended by adding a new paragraph (c) to read as follows: (C) (I) IN ADDITION TO ANY OTHER AUTHORITY CONFERRED UPON THE UTILITY CONSUMER ADVOCATE, HE OR SHE IS AUTHORIZED, AND IT SHALL BE HIS OR HER DUTY TO REPRESENT THE INTERESTS OF RESIDENTIAL UTILITY CUSTOMERS AS A PARTY, OR OTHERWISE PARTICIPATE FOR THE PURPOSE OF REPRESENTING THE INTERESTS OF SUCH CUSTOMERS BEFORE ANY AGENCIES OR COURTS. HE OR SHE MAY INITIATE PROCEEDINGS IF IN HIS OR HER JUDGMENT DOING SO MAY BE NECESSARY IN CONNECTION WITH ANY MATTER INVOLVING THE ACTIONS OR REGULATION OF PUBLIC UTILITY COMPANIES WHETHER ON APPEAL OR OTHERWISE INITIATED. THE UTILITY CONSUMER ADVOCATE MAY MONITOR ALL CASES BEFORE REGULATORY AGEN- CIES IN THE UNITED STATES, INCLUDING THE FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMIS- SION AND THE FEDERAL ENERGY REGULATORY COMMISSION THAT AFFECT THE INTER- ESTS OF RESIDENTIAL UTILITY CUSTOMERS OF THE STATE AND MAY FORMALLYS. 4550--A 3
PARTICIPATE IN THOSE PROCEEDINGS WHICH IN HIS OR HER JUDGMENT WARRANTS SUCH PARTICIPATION. (II) THE UTILITY CONSUMER ADVOCATE SHALL EXERCISE HIS OR HER INDEPEND- ENT DISCRETION IN DETERMINING THE INTERESTS OF RESIDENTIAL UTILITY CUSTOMERS THAT WILL BE ADVOCATED IN ANY PROCEEDING AND DETERMINE WHETHER TO PARTICIPATE IN OR INITIATE ANY PROCEEDING AND, IN SO DETERMINING, SHALL CONSIDER THE PUBLIC INTEREST, THE RESOURCES AVAILABLE, AND THE SUBSTANTIALITY OF THE EFFECT OF THE PROCEEDING ON THE INTEREST OF RESI- DENTIAL UTILITY CUSTOMERS. S 5. Paragraph (a) of subdivision 2 of section 18-a of the public service law, as amended by section 2 of part A of chapter 173 of the laws of 2013, is amended to read as follows: (a) The chairman of the department shall estimate prior to the start of each state fiscal year the total costs and expenses, including the compensation and expenses of the commission and the department, their officers, agents and employees, and including the cost of retirement contributions, social security, health and dental insurance, survivor's benefits, workers' compensation, unemployment insurance and other fringe benefits required to be paid by the state for the personnel of the commission and the department, and including all other items of mainte- nance and operation expenses, and all other direct and indirect costs. Based on such estimates, the chairman shall determine the amount to be paid by each assessed public utility company and the Long Island power authority and a bill shall be rendered to each such public utility company and authority. BASED ON THE ESTIMATE PROVIDED PURSUANT TO PARA- GRAPH (D) OF SUBDIVISION TWO OF SECTION NINETY-FOUR-A OF THE EXECUTIVE LAW, THE CHAIRMAN SHALL DETERMINE THE AMOUNT TO BE PAID BY EACH ASSESSED PUBLIC UTILITY COMPANY AND THE LONG ISLAND POWER AUTHORITY AND A BILL SHALL BE RENDERED TO EACH SUCH PUBLIC UTILITY COMPANY. S 6. This act shall take effect on April 1, 2015; provided however that if section 12 of part A of chapter 173 of the laws of 2013 shall not have taken effect on or before such date then section three of this act shall take effect on the same date and in the same manner as such chapter of the laws of 2013 takes effect.