Author Archives: Jeffrey A. Franklin, Esq.

About Jeffrey A. Franklin, Esq.

Jeffrey A. Franklin serves clients in ways that maximize their opportunity to achieve their goals. Jeff has more than 20 years of experience, primarily in the areas of electric, gas, telecommunication, alternative energy, transportation and water regulation. He also has extensive experience in technology, Internet and computer law and e-discovery issues.

PA Gas Drilling Impact Fees Total Distribution Tops $1 Billion

The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) today (June 15, 2017) posted detailed information about this year’s distribution of Impact Fees on natural gas producers, totaling $173,258,900, on the PUC’s interactive Act 13 website.puc_seal

Over the past six years, the PUC has collected and distributed more than $1.2 billion in Impact Fees to communities across Pennsylvania.

County and municipal governments directly affected by drilling will receive a total of $93,128,340 for the 2016 disbursement year. Additionally, $62,085,600 will be placed into the Marcellus Legacy Fund, which provides financial support for environmental, highway, water and sewer projects, rehabilitation of greenways and other projects throughout the state. Also, $18 million will be distributed to state agencies specified by the Act.

To learn how Prince Law Offices, P.C. can assist you or your business with energy law and PUC matters, contact attorney Jeffrey A. Franklin at Prince Law Offices, P.C.

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Are You Starting the Next “Uber”?

puc_sealAs part of an ongoing effort to address changes in the transportation industry, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) today encouraged concerned parties to submit comments regarding proposed changes to the Commission’s regulations governing the motor carrier industry.

The comments submitted in response to the Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking will be used in the PUC’s reexamination of motor carrier regulations, including businesses that transport passengers, property and household goods – as part of an effort to ensure that the transportation industry in Pennsylvania operates safely and also continues to innovate. In recent years, the oversight of these industries has evolved, in response to changes in federal law as well as market forces.

Possible topics for comment include:

  • The regulation of property carriers.
  • The regulation of group and party carriers.
  • Insurance requirements.
  • Safety requirements.
  • Fuel surcharges.
  • Fines and assessments.
  • The granting of provisional authority.
  • Web-based training for new and current carriers.
  • Various Commission General Orders, Policy Statements and guidelines for transportation utilities.
  • Any other specific considerations.

 

The comments should be submitted within 60 days of the publication of the Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in the Pennsylvania Bulletin.

Comments should include references to sections of the Commission’s current regulations. They should also provide a rationale for the proposed change and include specific proposed language for changes to the regulations.  Reference Docket No. L-2017-2604692. Rulemaking for Title 52 – Regulation of Motor Carriers of Passengers and Property.

Previously, the Commission approved updated regulations intended to reduce barriers for passenger carriers and moving companies.

To learn how Prince Law Offices, P.C. can assist you or your business with energy, real estate, transportation or other PUC matters including preparation and filing of comments, contact attorney Jeffrey A. Franklin at Prince Law Offices, P.C.

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PUC Announces Appointments to Consumer Advisory Council

puc_sealThe Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) today announced a series of appointments to its Consumer Advisory Council (CAC), which provides input to the PUC on issues important to utility customers. Members of the CAC will serve two-year terms, from July 1, 2017, through June 30, 2019.  Included are several representatives from our area.  Congratulations all!

New CAC members include:

 

  • Sonny Popowsky, former Pennsylvania Consumer Advocate (serving from 1990 to 2012), brings an extensive state and national background in consumer and utility issues. Popowsky, of Philadelphia, was appointed to the CAC by Gov. Tom Wolf.
  • Christopher M. Winters Sr., of Wernersville, Berks County, has experience in legislative affairs, constituent services, research and public relations. Winters was appointed by Rep. Thomas R. Caltagirone, Minority Chairman of the House Consumer Affairs Committee.

Additionally, the Commission ratified the reappointment of the following CAC members:

  • Troy T. Geanopulos, founder of several energy efficiency companies over the past 20 years, is currently the co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of The Efficiency Network (TEN), a tech-enabled provider of building efficiency services headquartered in Pittsburgh. Geanopulos was reappointed by Lt. Gov. Mike Stack.
  • Ralph G. Douglass, of Bensalem, Bucks County, was reappointed by Sen. Robert M. Tomlinson (R-Bucks), the Majority Chairman of the Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure Committee. Douglass is semi-retired from service as President of PECA Inc., an electronics design and manufacturing firm. Douglass current serves as chairman of the CAC.
  • Javier R. Toro, of Fountain Hill, Lehigh County, was appointed by Sen. Lisa M. Boscola (D-Lehigh), the Minority Chair of the Senate Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure Committee. He is a Customer Care Supervisor for the Community Action Committee of the Lehigh Valley, and also is responsible for weatherization.
  • George J. Silvestri Jr., of Souderton, Montgomery County, was reappointed by Rep. Robert W. Godshall (R-Montgomery), the Majority Chairman of the House Consumer Affairs Committee. Silvestri is an author and a retired engineer in the Power Generation Division of the Westinghouse Electric Corp.

The PUC also reappointed the following at-large members of the CAC:

  • Lillian Carpenter, a retired educator from Pittsburgh, a former member of the Pittsburgh Board of Education, and a member of the Board of Directors for the Pittsburgh Homeless Children’s Education Fund.
  • Patrick M. Cicero, Director of the Pennsylvania Utility Law Project (PULP), a statewide legal aid office, based on Harrisburg, that serves low-income households in utility and energy matters. He is a resident of Mechanicsburg, Cumberland County.
  • Timothy B. Hennessey is a licensed insurance agent with Advantage Insurance in Pottstown, Montgomery County, and owner of Phoenix Festival Productions, an event-planning company in North Coventry Township, Chester County.  Hennessey currently serves as vice chairman of the CAC.
  • Chad Quinn, of Lawrence County, is Chief Executive Officer of Pittsburgh-based Dollar Energy Fund, which works to improve the quality of life for households experiencing hardships by providing utility assistance and other services that lead to self-sufficiency.
  • Dr. Tina M. Serafini, a professor, curriculum designer/consultant and trainer for T.M. Serafini & Associates LLC, and a resident of Clearfield.
  • Joseph E. Toner III, Chairman of the Uwclan Township Board of Supervisors and President of the Chester County Association of Township Officials.

The Consumer Advisory Council advises the PUC Commissioners on matters related to the protection of consumer interests under the jurisdiction of the PUC. Council meetings are held bimonthly and are open to the public. Members serve without compensation.

Prince Law Offices, P.C. thanks each member for your service.  To learn how Prince Law Offices, P.C. can assist you or your business with energy, real estate, or PUC matters including representation in rate cases, contact attorney Jeffrey A. Franklin at Prince Law Offices, P.C.

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Someone Stole your Phone?

Identity theft can happen to anyone. Last week the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) published an article based on a true story from one if its fraud investigators who had her phone stolen.

She provided tips you can take to protect your digital identity:

Smart Phone:

  • Lock your phone. Use at least a 6-digit passcode on your device, or use the pattern lock or fingerprint scanner. Set the device to lock when not in use. This is especially important if you use a mobile wallet or money transfer apps.
  • Update it and back it up. Back up your device regularly and make sure automatic updates are turned on. Backing up your phone regularly and automatically makes sure that you’ll still have your stuff – if it disappears.
  • Get help finding your phone. Install and turn on Find My iPhone (iOS) or Find My Device (Android). These apps could help you locate your device if you lose it. If your phone is stolen, these apps also let you remotely issue a command to erase your device .
  • Alert your wireless provider if your phone is missing. Make the call as soon as you know your device is missing after you have used the Find My Phone/Device feature. They can permanently or temporarily disable the SIM card to stop someone from using the device on the cell network.

Accounts:

  • Turn on two-factor authentication. That means you’ll give your password and a second way to prove that you’re you. This extra layer of security makes it much harder for thieves to get into your accounts and lock you out. Many providers give several options to authenticate your identity, so be sure you have a backup method (like one-time use codes or a backup email address) in case you don’t have access to your device to receive texts or phone calls.
  • Know which devices have access to your accounts. Many social media sites and email providers, and some phone operating systems, let you view the logins for your devices from the settings menu. You can remove devices from the account, and log out of the site remotely using a computer or another device. That’s handy if ever you lose your phone, tablet, or laptop.
  • Check your log-in and account notifications. Many email and social media accounts can notify you if a new device connects to your account, or if someone tried to change your passwords.
  • When in doubt, change your passwords. If you’ve lost your device, change your passwords. Many of us set our devices to remember passwords – which could mean that someone who gets your phone could get access to your accounts and personal information. So: if you lose your phone, change your email, social media, online banking, shopping, and other passwords right away.

For more tips on what to do to protect yourself from identity thieves, check out ftc.gov/idtheft.

Need further help?  If you or your business have questions or concerns regarding fraud, computer law, privacy, or cybersecurity law matters, contact attorney Jeffrey A. Franklin at Prince Law Offices.

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New Wind Power Project for Pennsylvania

June 12, 2017, the Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. took an important step towards its commitment to 100 percent renewable energy for the firm’s global electricity needs. It has signed a long-term Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with a subsidiary of NextEra Energy Resources, LLC, which will add new renewable energy capacity to the electricity grid.

The agreement will enable the investment and development of a new 68 megawatt wind project in Pennsylvania and is anticipated to facilitate up to 150 construction jobs and result in the reduction of more than 200,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions per annum once operational.

“We are committed to being a leader in the development of renewable energy,” said Lloyd C. Blankfein, chairman and chief executive officer of Goldman Sachs. “By enabling this new wind project to come online, the agreement will help grow the renewable grid and contribute to the momentum behind a lower carbon economy.”

“We are pleased to advance our partnership with Goldman Sachs and help it achieve its renewable energy goals,” said Armando Pimentel, president and chief executive officer of NextEra Energy Resources, the world’s largest generator of renewable energy from the wind and the sun. “This partnership demonstrates how forward-looking companies like Goldman are re-thinking their energy use, and leading the way with their investment in low-cost, clean energy that is both good for the country and good for their customers.”

Goldman Sachs is a member of the RE100 initiative as part of its commitment to increasing awareness and in support of global best practices for renewable energy procurement.  RE100 includes 96 leading corporates committed to 100 percent renewable energy. Goldman Sachs is also a member of the Business Renewables Center, which seeks to accelerate corporate purchasing of renewable energy.

To learn how Prince Law Offices, P.C. can assist you or your business with renewable energy projects, PJM interconnection, real estate, business, FERC, or PUC matters, contact attorney Jeffrey A. Franklin at Prince Law Offices, P.C.

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Is it Time to Appeal Your Property Assessment?

Your home or business property tax bill may have arrived recently and like many of us, you wonder if you are paying more than your fair share.  How do you tell?  What can you do?

What is an assessment?

In Pennsylvania, real estate assessment is the value the county assigns to your property.  The assessment is used to determine how much you pay in real estate (school, municipal, and county) property taxes.

How much is my assessment?

Your property tax bill normally identifies the amount of your assessment.  You can also obtain the amount of your property tax assessment from your county tax office or its website.

Is my assessment fair?

The assessment, which is different than the appraised value of your property and in most cases does not equal 100 percent of the fair market value of your property, is established by the county once every few years and remains fixed as property values move up and down. So if your assessment is too high, either because it was originally assessed too high or because of a decrease in your property’s value, you are paying too much in taxes each year that the assessment remains the same.

Identify the current common level ratio for the county in which your property is located, normally from the county assessment office’s website.  Pennsylvania sets the common level ratio for each county annually.  It is the percentage of the market value at which properties should be assessed.

Multiply your estimated fair market value by the common level ratio to determine what you believe the assessment should be for your property.

Compare that to the county assessment.

Should I file an appeal?

You have the right to file an assessment appeal annually.  However, your taxes could increase if it is determined that your assessment was low.  If you believe your assessment is no fair, it is helpful to conduct additional research to identify a few comparable properties with lower assessments before filing an appeal.  We can assist you with identifying appraisers, real estate agents, and comparable properties to help you make an informed decision on whether to appeal this year.

Filing an Appeal

We are happy to assist clients to file an assessment appeal, prepare for and participate in the hearing, and appeal the assessment board decision, if necessary.  The annual deadline for filing of an assessment appeal varies by county but generally are in July or August.

Contact attorney Jeffrey A. Franklin and the team at Prince Law Offices, P.C. for more information and to discuss your real estate assessment with one of our attorneys.

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PUC to Investigate Rate Increase Request by PA-American Water Co.

puc_sealThe Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) recently voted to suspend and investigate a rate increase request by Pennsylvania- American Water Company (PAWC).

The Commission voted 5-0 to investigate the request for an annual revenue increase of approximately $107.9 million, or 16.4 percent.  The request is suspended for up to seven months and will be assigned to the Office of Administrative Law Judge for a recommended decision or settlement.  Under the company’s proposal, the average residential customer using 3,630 gallons per month would see a monthly increase of $9.49 from $55.63 to $65.12.

PAWC presently provides water and/or wastewater services to approximately 2.3 million people in Pennsylvania including many in our area.

To learn how Prince Law Offices, P.C. can assist you or your business with real estate, business, FERC, or PUC matters including representation in rate cases, contact attorney Jeffrey A. Franklin at Prince Law Offices, P.C.

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