Tag Archives: “Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission”

PUC to Investigate Water and Wastewater Rate Increases by Aqua Pennsylvania and Aqua Pennsylvania Wastewater

puc_sealSeptember 20, 2018 the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) voted to suspend and investigate proposed water and wastewater rate increases by Aqua Pennsylvania Inc. and Aqua Pennsylvania Wastewater Inc.

The Commission voted 5-0 to investigate the annual revenue and rate increase requests. Aqua Pennsylvania proposes to increase its annual operating revenues for water services by approximately $66.373 million (15.4 percent).  Aqua Pennsylvania Wastewater seeks a corresponding increase in its annual operating revenues for wastewater services by $5.369 million (40.1 percent).  The total annual revenue increase request amounts to approximately $71.8 million.

Under the proposals, the average monthly bill for a residential Main Division water customer using 4,080 gallons per month would increase by $9.22 per month, from $59.85 to $69.07. The average monthly bill for a residential Media Division wastewater customer using 4,200 gallons per month would increase $20.73 from $42.19 to $62.92.

These revenue and rate increase requests are suspended for up to seven months and will be assigned to the Office of Administrative Law Judge for evidentiary hearings and the issuance of recommended decisions or settlements.

Aqua Pennsylvania provides water service to more than 428,000 customers in portions of more than 200 municipalities throughout 32 Pennsylvania counties.  Aqua Pennsylvania Wastewater provides wastewater service to more than 19,000 customers in portions of more than 40 municipalities throughout 15 Pennsylvania counties.  Collectively, the two companies serve nearly 1.4 million people throughout the Commonwealth.

Desire more specific assistance regarding PUC matters, representation in rate cases, utility ratemaking, or utility law, contact attorney Jeffrey A. Franklin at Prince Law Offices, P.C.

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PUC Creates New Office of Cybersecurity Compliance and Oversight

puc_sealSeptember 20, 2018 the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) announced the appointment of Michael C. Holko, of Dauphin County, as the Director of the Office of Cybersecurity Compliance and Oversight (OCCO), a new position created by the PUC to direct the Commission’s cybersecurity and regulatory oversight program in helping to ensure that the Commonwealth’s regulated utilities are protected from cyber-attacks and ensuring adequate, safe and reliable public utility service to consumers.

“We are pleased to add Michael to our PUC team as he joins us in this most critical position,” said PUC Chairman Gladys M. Brown at Public Meeting.  “The creation of our new Office of Cybersecurity Compliance and Oversight is the next important step in the Commission’s continued efforts to protect Pennsylvania utility customers from experiencing disruption of utility services and other vital systems and services we depend on.”

Holko’s experience includes positions at the state’s Office of Administration’s Bureau of Personnel, the state’s Office of the Budget, the Pennsylvania Justice Network and most recently as a program manager at the state’s Office of Administration, Office for Information Technology.  Holko received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Slippery Rock University.  He resides in Harrisburg.

As the Director of the Office of Cybersecurity Compliance and Oversight, Holko will advise the Executive Director and Commissioners on policy issues and procedural improvements involving cybersecurity oversight functions of regulated utilities; draft proposed cyber-related regulations; and oversee the preparation of orders, rulemakings, policy statements, Secretarial Letters and memoranda related to cybersecurity policies and procedures of those regulated utilities.

Chairman Brown also noted that October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month, and discussed how the PUC is working with utilities, state agencies such as the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) and the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security, emergency responders, and other organizations to better prepare for cyber and physical attacks, strengthen critical systems, share information about current and future threats, and ensure that essential services are as resilient as possible. Last summer, those entities joined other stakeholders around the world in EARTH EX 2017, a first-ever transnational exercise to test responses to a large-scale power outage event.

Additionally, Chairman Brown stressed that it is equally important for consumers to review Pennsylvania’s online cybersecurity guide for tips to prevent identity theft, protect passwords, keep children safe online and secure mobile devices and referred utilities to the Cybersecurity Best Practices for Small and Medium Pennsylvania Utilities Guide, published by the PUC and available on its website.

If you or your business have legal questions or concerns regarding communications law, computer law, privacy, or cybersecurity law matters, contact attorney Jeffrey A. Franklin at Prince Law Offices.

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PUC Orders 17 Utilities to Return $320+ Million to Consumers Following Federal Tax Reform

The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) on May 17, 2018 issued an Order, puc_sealrequiring a “negative surcharge” or monthly credit on customer bills for 17 major electric, natural gas, and water and wastewater utilities, totaling more than $320-million per year. The refunds to consumers are the result of the substantial decrease in federal corporate tax rates and other tax changes under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) of 2017, which impacted the tax liability of many utilities.

Additionally, the PUC will consider the effects of federal tax reform on seven other public utilities as part of the investigations for rate cases which have already been filed or are expected to be filed by Aug. 1, 2018. In those situations, the Commission has directed the parties involved to address the impact of any TCJA tax savings as part of the overall rate design for each utility.

Today’s Order, along with a series of orders specific to each affected utility, were approved by 5-0 votes. The PUC’s action today follows an extensive investigation into the effects of federal tax reform on the rates charged by Commission-regulated utilities – which, among other things, reflect annual taxes owed both to the federal and state governments.

“As economic regulators, it is the Commission’s responsibility to ensure that utility rates are just and reasonable. Further, it is necessary for utility rates to reflect relevant tax expenses,” noted PUC Chairman Gladys M Brown in a statement at today’s public meeting. “I believe this work (by PUC staff) has resulted in an innovative answer by this Commission to effectively flow-through the benefits of the TCJA back to customers.”

Vice Chairman Andrew G. Place also praised staff’s work in this complex proceeding and agreed with the Commission’s overall approach. However, he indicated that the utilities’ overall cost of capital and rate of return should apply on the accumulated balances of tax savings for the period between January 1 and June 30, 2018.

Depending on the revenue and tax impact on each utility addressed in today’s PUC orders, the distribution charges on monthly consumer bills are expected to decrease from .56-percent to 8.55-percent. A list of the utilities impacted by today’s PUC orders, along with the anticipated changes in distribution rates, has been posted to the online docket for this matter: M-2018-2641242.  Tax Effects

Public utilities required to begin returning federal tax savings to consumers include Citizens’ Electric Company of Lewisburg, Metropolitan Edison Company, Pennsylvania Electric Company, Pennsylvania Power Company, Pike County Light & Power Company, PPL Electric Utilities Corporation, Wellsboro Electric Company, West Penn Power Company, PECO Energy Company (Gas Division), National Fuel Gas Distribution Corporation, Peoples Gas Company LLC, Peoples Natural Gas Company LLC—Equitable Division, UGI Central Penn Gas Inc., UGI Penn Natural Gas Inc., UGI Utilities, Inc.–Gas Division, Pennsylvania-American Water Company and Pennsylvania-American Water Company—Wastewater.

Utilities not required to take immediate action because of the continuing analysis of tax reform impacts on their current or pending rate cases include UGI Utilities, Inc. (Electric), Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania, Inc., Duquesne Light Company, PECO Energy Company (Electric), York Water Company, Suez Water Pennsylvania, Inc. and Aqua Pennsylvania, Inc.  In each of those situations, any tax savings will be considered as part of the broader evaluation of their rates.

The Commission also noted that one Pennsylvania public utility saw no financial impact or an increased federal tax liability as the result of TCJA. Per today’s order, Columbia Water Company is directed to file a tariff or tariff supplement within 10 days, replacing their current rates, which were declared to be “temporary” by Commission action in March 2018.

Finally, the Commission investigation determined that two utilities are receiving only a small increased tax liability from TCJA – Peoples Natural Gas Company LLC and Newtown Artesian Water Company. For these two utilities, the Commission’s previous order declaring their rates to be temporary will continue, subject to annual reconciliation.

Desire more specific assistance regarding PUC matters or energy law, contact attorney Jeffrey A. Franklin at Prince Law Offices, P.C.

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PUC Promotes Combined Heat and Power Technology in Pennsylvania

Earlier this month, April 5, 2018, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC)CHP Partnership Logo adopted a policy statement geared toward helping advance the development of combined heat and power (CHP) technology. Additionally, the PUC’s Bureau of Technical Utility Services will initiate a CHP Working Group to engage with stakeholders and encourage the deployment of, and reduce barriers to, CHP initiatives in Pennsylvania.

What is CHP? CHP captures the waste heat energy that is typically lost through power generation, using it to provide heating and/or cooling for manufacturing and business. CHP is an efficient means of generating electric power and thermal energy from a single fuel source, providing cost-effective energy services to commercial businesses like hospitals, universities and hotels.

“CHP offers a variety of benefits,” noted Chairman Gladys M. Brown in a supporting statement at recent PUC public meeting,” First and foremost, CHP supports environmental stewardship through increased efficiency. Also, it provides economic benefits to its adopters through reductions in energy consumption. Further, it supports reliability and resiliency as a distributed energy resource.”

The Commission voted 5-0 to adopt the policy statement, which promotes a coordinated approach to CHP to the benefit of the economy, the environment, and the security of Pennsylvania residents and businesses.  First proposed and issued for public comment in the winter of 2016, the newly adopted policy statement is intended to:

  • promote CHP investments;
  • encourage electric distribution companies (EDCs) and natural gas distribution companies (NGDCs) to make CHP an integral part of their energy efficiency and resiliency plans, as well as their marketing and outreach efforts; and
  • encourage these companies to design interconnection processes and rates for owners and operators of CHP facilities.

Under the new policy, EDCs and NGDCs are required to report to the Commission biennially on CHP development in their service territories, including their efforts to promote such development.  Additionally, Commission staff will provide biennial reports to the Commission summarizing and analyzing the utility reports, identifying government agency programs providing financial aid and other support for CHP and making recommendations regarding the development of CHP in the Commonwealth.

Desire more specific assistance regarding CHP, renewable energy projects, energy law, or real estate law, contact attorney Jeffrey A. Franklin at Prince Law Offices, P.C.

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PaPUC Initiates Further Study of Supplier Consolidated Billing by Electric Generation Suppliers

puc_sealOn January 18, 2018, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) initiated further study of customer billing practices by competitive electric generations suppliers (EGSs) – directing an en banc hearing be conducted before the Commission to explore, among other things, the legality, merits and potential implementation of supplier consolidated billing (SCB).

The Commission voted 5-0 to deny a petition filed by NRG Energy Inc. (NRG), requesting approval of SCB, but also approved a joint motion by Chairman Gladys M. Brown and Commissioner Norman J. Kennard to further explore the the merits of possible alternatives to SCB.

Under SCB, customers would receive a single, consolidated bill from their chosen EGS that would include both their electric distribution company’s (EDC) distribution charges and their EGS’s generation and transmission charges.  Currently in Pennsylvania, EDCs handle all customer billing, with the EDC joint bill including any generation and transmission charges for customers with competitive EGSs.

The joint motion by Chairman Brown and Commissioner Kennard outlined the ongoing exploration of the issue by the Commission.

“We continue to be of the opinion previously expressed by the Commission as part of our retail electricity market investigation that SCB will facilitate the offering of innovative new products and services and will also help the supplier in establishing a brand identity with the customer,” Commissioner Kennard stated in the joint motion. “In order to continue the consideration of SCB and other programs that can promote a competitive market and benefit customers, we find that it is necessary to seek further information.”

The Commissioners’ joint motion directs the PUC’s Law Bureau and Office of Competitive Market Oversight (OCMO) to organize an en banc hearing, to occur on or before June 14, 2018, to allow invited parties the opportunity to provide additional information on SCB or SCB alternatives.  The Commission plans to issue a Secretarial Letter with more details on the en banc hearing.

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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PaPUC Proposes Change to Age Requirement for Drivers of Paratransit Vehicles

puc_sealJuly 12, 2017, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) proposed a change to the age requirement for drivers of paratransit vehicles, in order to more closely match current guidelines from the Pennsylvania Department of Health (DOH) and reduce operational and hiring challenges for ambulance and paratransit companies across the state.

The Proposed Rulemaking Order was approved 5-0 by the Commission on July 12, allowing paratransit vehicles to be operated by trained and certified ambulance drivers who are 18 years or older – initiating a written comment period and review by relevant agencies.

Currently, PUC regulations for paratransit services require drivers to be at least 21 years old, while DOH rules allow drivers 18 years or older to operate ambulances if they have proper training and certification. In proposing the change in PUC regulations, the Commissioners noted that many of the state’s ambulance companies also provide paratransit services, and the differences in age requirements currently prevent some trained ambulance drivers from being able to operate paratransit vehicles – complicating operations for those organizations.

The proposed change established the following conditions for paratransit drivers who are under the age of 21:

  • Drivers 18 years or older must be certified as an Emergency Medical Service Vehicle Operator (EMSVO) by the DOH.
  • Drivers must carry their DOH-issued EMSVO certification on board, while operating a paratransit vehicle.
  • Paratransit carriers must comply with all DOH regulations and maintain records for a period of four years to prove each person’s EMSVO certification.
  • These records must be available for inspection by Commission Staff, upon request.
  • Paratransit carriers must notify the PUC of any accident involving a paratransit driver who is under 21 years of age, regardless of the severity of the accident.

The Proposed Rulemaking Order will be published in the Pennsylvania Bulletin and written comments should be submitted within 30 days of that publication. All comments must reference Docket No. L-2017-2600599.

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

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Central PA Residents & Businesses Switching to 10-Digit Dialing in ‘717’ Area Code in August

puc_sealThe Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) today reminded residents and businesses across Central Pennsylvania served by the 717 area code of the upcoming switch to 10-digit dialing for all local calls – in preparation for the activation of a new “overlay” area code, which will serve the entire region.

According to the implementation schedule for the “223” overlay area code, mandatory 10-digit dialing for all local calls will begin on Aug. 26, 2017. Starting on that date, if callers only dial a seven-digit number, they will reach a recorded announcement instructing them to hang up and redial the number using the area code plus the seven-digit number.

For the past several months, telephone callers in the 16-county 717 service area have been encouraged to voluntarily use 10-digit dialing (717 + the full local telephone number). The new 223 overlay area was approved based on forecasts that the remaining supply of available telephone numbers in the 717 area code was close to exhaustion.

According to Neustar, Inc., the neutral third party area code relief planner for Pennsylvania, the dialing plan for the 717/223 area code is as follows:

  • Local & Toll calls from the 717/223 area to other numbers inside the 717/223 area:
    Dial 10-digits (717 or 223 + XXX-XXXX)
  • Local & Toll Calls from the 717/223 area to numbers in another area code:
    Dial 1 + 10-Digits (1 + XXX-XXX-XXXX)
  • Operator Services (Credit card, collect, third party):
    Dial 0 + 10-digit (0 + XXX-XXX-XXXX)

The PUC’s Order approving the overlay plan specifies that any new numbers for the 223 overlay area code shall not be released until Sept. 26, 2017, and that requests for numbers in the 717 area code will continue to be honored as long as resources are available.

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

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