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Safety First – Call Before You Dig

 

PA One Call“The arrival of warmer spring weather often marks an increase in construction and home renovation across the state, making this a prime time to highlight the importance of safe digging practices,” noted Commissioner John F. Coleman Jr. during the Commission’s Public Meeting today. “Every year, there are approximately 6,000 hits on our underground infrastructure across the state, and each one of these poses a risk to contractors, utility workers and bystanders, along with the possibility of service In conjunction with National Safe Digging Month, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) today reminded homeowners, businesses and contractors of the importance of dialing 8-1-1 before digging to help ensure the safety of their excavation projects.interruptions, environmental damage and costly repairs to damaged lines.”

State law requires contractors and residents to contact the PA One Call system at least three business days prior to excavation – triggering alerts to all utilities within an intended digging area and prompting them to mark where their facilities are located. Pennsylvanians can dial 8-1-1 puc_sealto connect with the One Call system, while non-Pennsylvania residents can dial 1-800-242-1776.

“We urge everyone involved in excavation projects – whether it’s a small backyard improvement project or a large construction site – to ensure that utilities are marked before any digging begins,” Commission Coleman added. “A single call to 8-1-1 can go a long way toward preventing a potential tragedy or avoiding costly delays or repairs to underground utility lines.”

Governor Wolf and leaders from numerous counties across Pennsylvania have proclaimed April to be Pennsylvania One Call System Safe Digging Month, underscoring the invaluable nature of this service.

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

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PaPUC Approves Three Applications for Permanent Operating Authority as Transportation Network Companies

puc_sealOn February 9, 2017, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) approved two applications for authority to operate as a Transportation Network Company (TNC) – increasing the total number of approved TNCs in Pennsylvania to three companies.

The Commission voted 5-0 to grant licenses to transport persons via TNC services to Lyft, Inc., which had previously been issued an experimental two-year authorization from the PUC.

The Commission also voted 5-0 to approve a license application submitted by Freed Man Autonomous Vehicles, LLC.

Previously, on Jan. 26, 2017, the Commission approved a TNC license application submitted by Rasier-PA, a wholly-owned affiliate of Uber Technologies, Inc.

The Commission oversees transportation services operating throughout Pennsylvania – including taxis, limousines and TNCs – with the exception of Philadelphia, where those activities are regulated by the Philadelphia Parking Authority. In December 2016 the Commission established an application process for new TNC licenses under Act 164 of 2016, which created the regulatory framework for TNCs to operate in Pennsylvania. Act 164 was signed into law by Governor Wolf in November 2016. Prior to that time, TNCs operated in most of Pennsylvania under experimental authority granted by the PUC.

In a joint statement issued at yesterday’s public meeting, PUC Chairman Gladys M. Brown and Commissioner Robert F. Powelson took note of the growing number of TNCs now licensed to operate across Pennsylvania as the result of Act 164, emphasizing that innovative services are good for consumers, good for the transportation industry and good for business in the Commonwealth.

All of the TNCs approved by the Commission are required to maintain consumer protections and comply with all driver integrity, vehicle safety and insurance requirements set forth in the Public Utility Code or the Commission’s orders and regulations, along with all requirements established by Act 164. Additionally, to the extent that any autonomous vehicles or vehicles with advanced driver assistance systems and technologies are used, such vehicles shall be and shall remain in continuous compliance with all current and future vehicle safety rules and regulations issued by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.

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

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Got Gas? PA Collects Over $1 Billion for Gas Wells

Over the past five years, since the passage of Act 13 of 2012 and the inception of puc_sealPennsylvania’s unconventional gas well impact fee program, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) has collected and distributed more than $1 billion to counties, municipalities and other organizations.

 

Extensive public information about Pennsylvania’s impact fee program is available on the PUC’s interactive Act 13 website. Visitors can review specifics on funds collected and distributed for each year since 2011.  The site allows individuals to search and download statistics such as distributions to individual municipalities or counties; allocation and usage of those funds, based on reports submitted by various municipalities; eligible wells per county/municipality; and payments by producers.

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

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PA PUC ‘Be Utility Wise’ Events; Increasing Awareness about Utility Customer Assistance Programs

puc_sealThe Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) is hosting its second of five statewide annual PA “Be Utility Wise” events on Thursday, Oct. 20, 2016, from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., at Mohegan Sun, 1280 Highway 315, Wilkes-Barre, PA. The outreach events will continue across Pennsylvania through October and November, including Reading on October 31, 2016.

PUC Vice Chairman Andrew Place is the opening speaker at the Wilkes-Barre event, which will focus on the importance of increasing awareness throughout Northeastern PA about the many assistance programs intended to help lower-income residents afford and maintain utility services.

“It is essential that we work to connect all the different programs in a community to more effectively serve as many people as possible,” said Vice Chairman Andrew Place. “We need to stay connected to each other to best serve those residents. Our driving focus is to keep these families connected to essential utility services.”

According to data compiled by the PUC, Pennsylvania utilities spent nearly $459 million on various customer assistance programs last year, not counting private assistance or the federal Low Income Heating Assistance Program (LIHEAP). Every year, these programs helped reduce the monthly bills for more than 280,000 electric customers and over 160,000 natural gas customers across the state – and enrollment and annual spending for these programs has increased dramatically over the past decade.

Additionally, PUC-required assistance services also support programs to help low-income customers modernize their heating systems and reduce their energy consumption – making current and future utility bills more affordable. Utilities, and their customers, also contribute several million dollars per year in hardship funds, assisting thousands of in-need families.

In addition to networking opportunities, the free “train-the-trainer” event will feature presentations from state agencies, local utility companies and other financial assistance programs in order to share ideas and services.

This year’s participants include the PUC, United Way of Greater Hazleton, PPL Electric Utilities Inc., UGI Utilities Inc., Dollar Energy Fund, North Penn Legal, Commission on Economic Opportunity, Weinberg Regional Food Bank, the state’s Office of Consumer Advocate, and the Luzerne County Assistance Office.

The remaining PUC’s Be Utility Wise events include:

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton – Oct. 20, 2016, from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Mohegan Sun

1280 Highway 315

Wilkes-Barre, PA 18702

Johnstown – Oct. 28, 2016, from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown

450 Schoolhouse Rd.

Johnstown, PA 15904

Berks County – Oct. 31, 2016, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Double Tree by Hilton

701 Penn Street

Reading, PA  19601

Harrisburg – Nov. 15, 2016, from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Red Lion Inn

4751 Lindle Rd.

Harrisburg PA 17111

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

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PUC Seeks Comments on Changes to Utility Regulations

puc_sealThe Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC or Commission) today issued for comment revisions to Chapter 56 of the Public Utility Code (Chapter 56), including but not limited to new utility reporting requirements, a new definition for medical certificates, an end to Friday utility service terminations, and installments for customers’ security deposits.

The Commission voted 4-0 to adopt the revisions to Chapter 56, which relates to the standards and billing practices for residential utility service.  Act 155 of 2014, which reauthorized and amended Chapter 14 of the Public Utility Code (Chapter 14) and partially superseded Chapter 56, directed the Commission to revise Chapter 56 and promulgate regulations to administer and enforce Chapter 14 (Responsible Utility Customer Protection).

In making Chapter 56 consistent with the amended Chapter 14, the Commission has revised and updated several key areas. Relating to the definition of a “Medical Certificate,” the Commission is proposing new content standards for medical certificates, which under Act 155 must be in writing and in a form approved by the Commission.  Prior to Act 155, the Public Utility Code contained no definition for medical certificates.  Act 155 also added physician assistants to the list of health professionals who can authorize medical certificates, a change also sought in the proposed rulemaking.

Additionally, the Commission seeks further comment on several other proposed changes to Chapter 56, including but not limited to a requirement for utilities to report annually medical certificate usage, as well as customer accounts with arrearages in excess of $10,000; the end of termination of utility service on Fridays; and allowing customers to pay security deposits in three installments over a 60-day period.  The proposed rulemaking also would make small natural gas distribution companies, as well as steam heat and wastewater utilities, comply with the same rules as electric and natural gas utilities.

Act 155 was signed into law on Oct. 22, 2014, by Governor Tom Corbett. It amends Chapters 5, 14, 22 and 28 of the Public Utility Code. In addition to establishing a definition for medical certificate, Act 155 allows the PUC to: 1) establish annual fees to fund the Commission’s oversight of natural gas suppliers and electric generation suppliers; 2) include the intrastate operating revenues of licensed entities in determining its budget cap; and 3) exclude from its budget cap funds received from the federal government and other sources to perform functions unrelated to the Commission’s jurisdictional regulation.

To learn how Prince Law Offices, P.C. can assist you with PUC matters including comments to the proposed regulations, contact attorney Jeffrey A. Franklin at Prince Law Offices, P.C.

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PUC Seeks Comments and Approved Tentative Implementation Order Addressing Valuation of Municipal or Authority-Owned Water and Wastewater Systems Acquired by Investor-Owned Utilities

puc_sealThe Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) today, July 21, 2016, adopted a Tentative Implementation Order that addresses amendments to Chapter 13 of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Code (Code), which Governor Wolf signed into law April, as Act 12 of 2016. That legislation added a new section to the Code – Section 1329 – providing for significant changes in the way the PUC examines acquisitions of municipal and authority-owned water and wastewater systems by investor-owned utilities.

The PUC voted 4-0 to adopt tentative interim procedures and guidelines necessary to begin implementation of Section 1329, including a proposed timeline for adjudications. The PUC has also invited comments from interested parties regarding the tentative proposals, along with any additional recommendations. Comments are due within 20 days.  We can assist with preparation and filing of comments.

Section 1329 is intended to address concerns about previous mechanisms for valuing municipal or authority-owned property, and provides a process to determine the fair market value of a municipal or authority-owned water or wastewater system that is acquired by a public utility.

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

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PUC Considers Alternative Utility Ratemaking for Energy Reliability and Conservation

As we discussed in our blog on January 8, 2016, the Pennsylvania Public Utility puc_sealCommission (PUC) today, March 3, 2016, hosted a Harrisburg hearing to gather information from a diverse group of experts regarding alternative ratemaking methodologies, as part of ongoing discussions about how to best maintain safe and reliable energy infrastructure while also encouraging utilities to push forward with more aggressive energy efficiency and conservation programs.

The panels involved in today’s hearing reflected perspectives from experts in alternative ratemaking, energy efficiency, consumer organizations, industrial customers and utilities. The agenda and full list of panelists is found on the Commission’s website.

The hearing focused on several issues concerning alternative rate design, including:

  • Whether revenue decoupling or other similar rate mechanisms encourage utilities to better implement energy efficiency and conservation programs;
  • Whether such rate mechanisms are just and reasonable and in the public interest; and
  • Whether the benefits of implementing such rate mechanisms outweigh any costs associated with implementing the rate mechanisms.

In addition to the testimony presented today, the Commission also will review written comments regarding alternative ratemaking, which must be received no later than March 16, 2016.  All documents related to the hearing, including the testimony and presentations submitted by the witnesses who testified today, are available on the Commission’s website.

The Commissioners thanked those who testified today, along with those parties who plan to submit additional comments and testimony, as the PUC continues to explore this issue.

Desire more specific assistance regarding ratemaking, utility costs, renewable energy projects, or energy law, contact attorney Jeffrey A. Franklin at Prince Law Offices, P.C.

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