PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION

ORIGIN & FUNCTIONS


[photo, William Donald Schaefer Tower, 6 St. Paul St., Baltimore, Maryland] To regulate public utilities and transportation companies conducting business in Maryland, the Public Service Commission was established by the General Assembly in 1910 (Chapter 180, Acts of 1910).

The utilities and companies regulated by the Commission concern electric and gas utilities and suppliers; telecommunications companies; water and sewage disposal companies; passenger motor vehicle carriers (sedans, limousines & charter buses); railroads; hazardous liquid pipelines; and other public service companies. The Commission also oversees taxicabs operating in Baltimore City, Baltimore County, St. Mary's County, Cumberland, and Hagerstown. Additionally, it sets rates for Bay pilots and docking masters.

In supervising and regulating public service companies, the Commission must consider the public safety, the economy of the State, the conservation of natural resources, and the preservation of environmental quality (Code Public Utilities Article, sec. 2-113).

William Donald Schaefer Tower, 6 St. Paul St., Baltimore, Maryland, August 2015. Photo by Diane F. Evartt.


The Commission sets utility rates and deals with rate adjustments (Code Public Utilities Article, secs. 4-101 through 4-503). It also decides matters relating to applications to exercise franchises; approval of issuance of securities; promulgation of new rules and regulations; and quality of utility and common carrier service (Code Public Utilities Article, secs. 5-101 through 5-106). In connection with an application to construct or modify a generating plant or high-voltage overhead transmission lines of a certain capacity, the Commission has authority to issue a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity.

Jurisdiction of the Public Service Commission is limited to intrastate service.

To supervise and regulate the activities of public utilities, common carriers, and taxicab companies under its jurisdiction, the Commission has broad authority. The General Assembly has provided that "the powers of the Commission shall be liberally construed" so that they may effectively deal with the dynamic nature of public service companies (Code Public Utilities Article, sec. 2-112). In addition to setting rates, the Commission collects and maintains records and reports of public service companies; reviews plans for service; inspects equipment; audits financial records; and addresses consumer complaints. It promulgates and enforces rules and regulations, defends its decisions on appeal to State courts, and intervenes in relevant cases before federal regulatory commissions and courts.

The Commission may make joint investigations, hold joint hearings, and issue joint or other concurrent orders in conjunction with any official state or federal board or commission under agreements and compacts between states, under the concurrent powers of states to regulate interstate commerce as an agency of the federal government, or otherwise (Code Public Utilities Article, secs. 2-120).

The costs and expenses of the Commission are borne by the public service companies that are subject to the Commissionís jurisdiction (Code Public Utilities Article, sec. 2-110). Each utility and common carrier under that jurisdiction is assessed a proportionate share of the Commission's direct and indirect expenses.

Appointed by the Governor with Senate advice and consent, the Commission's five members serve five-year terms. Also with Senate advice and consent, the Governor names the Chair to a five-year (Code Public Utilities Article, secs. 1-101 through 13-208).

The Commission appoints the Executive Director, the Executive Secretary, and the General Counsel (Code Public Utilities Article, secs. 2-104, 2-105, 2-106).

CONSUMER AFFAIRS DIVISION
The Consumer Affairs Division began as the Office of External Relations and adopted its present name in December 2018.

The Division investigates complaints from consumers concerning gas, electric, telephone and water service and mediates disputes between consumers and utility companies based on applicable laws, regulations, and tariffs. To consumers and consumer groups, trade organizations, financial institutions, elected officials, and the public, the Division provides educational information about the Commission and its decisions, utilities, and suppliers.

OFFICE OF GENERAL COUNSEL
The General Counsel represents the Public Service Commission in a proceeding if the Commission is a party to or desires to intervene in the proceeding, if the proceeding involves certain questions, or if the proceeding involves an act or order of the Commission (Code Public Utilities Article, secs. 2-106). On request, the General Counsel advises the Commission on legal questions that require interpretation of a provision of law about the jurisdiction, rights, duties, or powers of the Commission; and serves as attorney to the Commission when required.

Appointed by the Commission, the General Counsel is an attorney-at-law of the State (Code Public Utilities Article, secs. 2-106).

PUBLIC UTILITY LAW JUDGE DIVISION

Formed as the Hearing Examiner Division, the Public Utility Law Judge Division received its present name in September 2011.

Applications for the construction of power plants and high-voltage transmission lines are heard and decided upon by the Division's Public Utility Law Judges. They also conduct hearings and rates for gas, electric and telephone companies; rate adjustments for purchased gas and electricity; plant and equipment depreciation; and consumer complaints not resolved at the administrative level. In addition, they hear matters relating to taxicab permit holders and drivers' licenses.

The Chief Public Utility Law Judge reports directly to the Public Service Commission (Code Public Utilities Article, sec. 2-108).


[photo, William Donald Schaefer Tower, 6 St. Paul St., Baltimore, Maryland]

OFFICE OF EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

The Executive Director supervises the work of the Commission's technical staff. In addition to daily regulatory oversight, the Executive Director coordinates analyses of utility filings, formulation of staff policy positions, and presentation of testimony in formal and informal proceedings.

Under the Executive Director are eight divisions: Accounting Investigations; Electricity; Energy Analysis and Planning; Engineering; Staff Attorney; Telecommunications, Gas and Water; and Transportation.

ACCOUNTING INVESTIGATIONS DIVISION

The Accounting Investigations Division audits the financial filings of regulated public utilities. It conducts audits of utility fuel costs and natural gas procurement strategies, and advises the Commission during periodic fuel-cost hearings. The Division also provides advice to the Commission on regulation, revenue requirements, recovery of Clean Air Act expenditures, and utility management audits.

William Donald Schaefer Tower, 6 St. Paul St., Baltimore, Maryland, August 2015. Photo by Diane F. Evartt.


ELECTRICITY DIVISION

Initiated in 2008, the Electricity Division conducts economic financial and policy analyses relevant to the regulation of electric utilities. It studies and reports to the Commission on electricity retail markets, concerns of low-income consumers, and other related issues.

ENERGY ANALYSIS & PLANNING DIVISION

The Energy Analysis and Planning Division traces back to the formation of the Integrated Resource Planning Division in 1993. In 2006, it became the Energy Resources and Markets Division, and in 2010 the Division returned to its original name. In January 2011, it merged with the Demand-Side Management Division (created in 2008) to form Energy Planning and Analysis. It reorganized under its present name in May 2011.

The Division reviews and monitors electric and gas utilitiy energy efficiency, conservation, demand reduction, and related programs. To help meet energy and demand reduction targets, the Division tracks goals, reviews programs, and monitors results.

Power supply plans, applications for electric generating plant construction, Clean Air Act compliance plans, load management and conservation programs, and other issues which impact the long-term public interest also are analyzed by the Division.In addition, the Division develops and updates the Ten-Year Plan of Maryland Electric Utilities.

ENGINEERING DIVISION

The operations of public service companies are monitored by the Engineering Division. The Division inspects the facilities and checks them for safety and efficiency. The Division also inspects the operating records of utility companies; investigates utility service problems; and tests gas, electric and water meters for accuracy. For power plants and high-voltage transmission lines, the Division evaluates construction requests and assures that natural gas and hazardous liquid pipelines meet federal safety requirements.

STAFF COUNSEL DIVISION

In all matters pending before the Commission, the Staff Counsel Division coordinates staff positions and provides legal representation for staff witnesses before the Commission. The Division also reviews utility applications, witness testimony, and the comments of the Commission's technical staff. In addition, the Division coordinates the development of regulations, and answers inquiries from legislators, utilities, regulators, and consumers.

TELECOMMUNICATIONS, GAS & WATER DIVISION

In 2008, the Telecommunications, Gas and Water Division was created from the Telecommunications Division.

For the Commission, the Division regulates the delivery of wholesale and retail telecommunications services; retail natural gas services; privately owned for-profit water services; and privately owned sewage disposal services. The Division also provides testimony in contested cases before the Commission.

TRANSPORTATION [COMMON CARRIER INVESTIGATIONS] DIVISION

The Transportation Division oversees the regulation of transportation companies operating in intrastate commerce in Maryland. The Division monitors vehicle safety; limits of liability insurance; schedules of operation; and rates and service for all regulated carriers, except railroads. Moreover, the Division licenses drivers of taxicabs in Baltimore City, Cumberland, and Hagerstown, and other passenger-for-hire vehicles carrying fifteen or fewer passengers.

OFFICE OF EXECUTIVE SECRETARY

Responsible for the daily operations of the Commission, the Executive Secretary is the principal contact for federal and State agencies, and commissions, or companies doing business with the Public Service Commission. For the Commission, the Executive Secretary oversees information technology, fiscal and budget matters, personnel, purchasing, and procurement.

Records of all proceedings, filed documents, orders, regulation decisions, dockets, and files are kept by the Executive Secretary. The Office also oversees case management; expert services procurement; order preparation; regulation development and coordination; and tariff maintenance.

RECORDS MANAGEMENT
Each record of the Public Service Commission is a public record and shall be made available to the public at reasonable times (Code Public Utilities Article, sec. 2-109).

Since October 1, 2017, the Public Service Commission has had a program for the continual, economical and efficient management of its records. The Commission's Records Officer develops and oversees the program, and serves as liaison to the Records Management Division of the Department of General Services, and to the State Archives (Chapter 539, Acts of 2017; Code State Government Article, secs. 10-608 through 10-611).

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