A06239 Summary:

BILL NO    A06239B

SAME AS    SAME AS S04550-B

SPONSOR    Dinowitz (MS)

COSPNSR    Paulin, Brennan, Millman, Crespo, Jacobs, Kearns, Mosley, Rosenthal,
           Sepulveda, Colton, Perry, Zebrowski, Cook, Gottfried, Mayer, Otis,
           Galef, Jaffee, Hennessey, Cahill, Abinanti, Hevesi, Steck, Stirpe,
           McDonald, Gunther, Montesano, Robinson, Markey, Skartados, Lupardo,
           Raia, Brindisi, Weprin, Lifton, Ortiz, Skoufis

MLTSPNSR   Arroyo, Clark, Englebright, Glick, Rivera, Schimel, Simanowitz,
           Thiele, Weinstein, Weisenberg

Add Art 1-A SS28-a - 28-d, Pub Serv L

Creates the state office of the utility consumer advocate to represent
interests of residential utility customers.
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A06239 Memo:

NEW YORK STATE ASSEMBLY
MEMORANDUM IN SUPPORT OF LEGISLATION
submitted in accordance with Assembly Rule III, Sec 1(f)
 
BILL NUMBER: A6239B
 
SPONSOR: Dinowitz (MS)
  TITLE OF BILL: An act to amend 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 to represent residential utility consumers' interests in residential utility matters at the state and federal level.   SUMMARY OF PROVISIONS: Section 1 amends the public service law by adding a new article 1-A that would establish the state Office of the Utility Consumer Advocate (UCA). The UCA will be appointed by the governor to a six year term. The section also outlines the qualifications required for such an appointee and his or her responsibilities as the UCA, including the operation of the office. The section outlines the powers of the office of the UCA, which include initiating, intervening, and participating on behalf of residential utility consumers in any proceedings before the Public Service Commis- sion, the Federal Regulatory Energy Commission, the Federal Communi- cations Commission, state and local administrative and regulatory agen- cies, and state and federal courts in any matter or proceeding that may substantially affect the interests of residential utility customers. The section also allows for the UCA to exercise and have independence in any and all actions of the office. The new section also requires an annual report from the office of the UCA to the governor and legislature as, which would be made available to the public, and would that will include information on all proceedings that the office of the UCA participated in and the outcome of such proceedings. Additionally, the report shall include estimated savings to residential utility customers that resulted from intervention by the UCA, and lastly any policy recommendations and suggested statutory amendments that the UCA deems necessary. Section 2 sets the effective date.   JUSTIFICATION: Currently more than 40 states and the District of Columbia have an inde- pendent state agency that represents the interests of residential utili- ty 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 judi- cial 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 utili- ties 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 Util- ity 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.
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A06239 Text:



 
                STATE OF NEW YORK
        ________________________________________________________________________
 
                                         6239--B
                                                                Cal. No. 289
 
                               2013-2014 Regular Sessions
 
                   IN ASSEMBLY
 
                                     March 19, 2013
                                       ___________
 
        Introduced  by  M.  of  A.  DINOWITZ,  PAULIN, BRENNAN, MILLMAN, CRESPO,
          JACOBS, KEARNS, MOSLEY, ROSENTHAL, SEPULVEDA, COLTON,  PERRY,  ZEBROW-
          SKI,  COOK,  GOTTFRIED, MAYER, OTIS, GALEF, JAFFEE, HENNESSEY, CAHILL,
          ABINANTI, HEVESI, STECK, STIRPE, McDONALD, GUNTHER, MONTESANO,  ROBIN-

          SON,  MARKEY,  SKARTADOS,  LUPARDO,  RAIA, BRINDISI, WEPRIN, LIFTON --
          Multi-Sponsored by -- M. of  A.  ARROYO,  CLARK,  ENGLEBRIGHT,  GLICK,
          RIVERA, ROSA, SCHIMEL, THIELE, WEISENBERG -- read once and referred to
          the  Committee  on  Consumer  Affairs  and Protection -- advanced to a
          third reading, amended and ordered reprinted, retaining its  place  on
          the  order of third reading -- again amended on third reading, ordered
          reprinted, retaining its place on the order of third reading
 
        AN ACT to amend 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:
 
     1    Section 1.  The public service law is amended by adding a new  article
     2  1-A to read as follows:

     3                                 ARTICLE 1-A
     4              THE STATE OFFICE OF THE UTILITY CONSUMER ADVOCATE
     5  Section 28-a. Definitions.
     6          28-b. Establishment  of the state office of the utility consumer
     7                  advocate.
     8          28-c. Powers of the state office of the utility  consumer  advo-
     9                  cate.
    10          28-d. Reports.
    11    §  28-a.  Definitions.  When  used in this article:   (a) "Department"
    12  means the department of public service.
    13    (b) "Commission" means the public service commission.
    14    (c) "Residential utility customer" means any person  who  is  sold  or
    15  offered for sale residential utility service by a utility company.
 

         EXPLANATION--Matter in italics (underscored) is new; matter in brackets
                              [ ] is old law to be omitted.
                                                                   LBD09713-07-4

        A. 6239--B                          2
 
     1    (d)  "Utility  company" means any person or entity operating an agency
     2  for public service, including, but not  limited  to,  those  persons  or
     3  entities  subject  to  the  jurisdiction,  supervision  and  regulations
     4  prescribed by or pursuant to the provisions of this chapter.
     5    §  28-b.  Establishment  of  the  state office of the utility consumer
     6  advocate. There is established the state office of the utility  consumer
     7  advocate  to  represent  the interests of residential utility customers.

     8  The utility consumer advocate shall be appointed by the  governor  to  a
     9  term of six years, upon the advice and consent of the senate. The utili-
    10  ty  consumer  advocate shall possess knowledge and experience in matters
    11  affecting residential utility customers and shall be responsible for the
    12  direction, control, and operation of the state  office  of  the  utility
    13  consumer  advocate,  including  its  hiring  of  staff  and retention of
    14  experts for analysis and testimony in proceedings. The utility  consumer
    15  advocate  shall  not be removed for cause, but may be removed only after
    16  notice and opportunity to be heard, and only for  permanent  disability,
    17  malfeasance, a felony, or conduct involving moral turpitude. Exercise of

    18  independent  judgment  in  advocating positions on behalf of residential
    19  utility customers shall not constitute cause for removal of the  utility
    20  consumer advocate.
    21    §  28-c.  Powers of the state office of the utility consumer advocate.
    22  The state office of the utility consumer advocate shall have  the  power
    23  and  duty  to:  (a)  initiate, intervene in, or participate on behalf of
    24  residential utility customers in any proceedings before the  commission,
    25  the  federal  energy  regulatory  commission, the federal communications
    26  commission, federal, state and local administrative and regulatory agen-
    27  cies, and state and federal courts in any matter or proceeding that  may
    28  substantially  affect  the  interests  of residential utility customers,

    29  including, but not limited to, a  proposed  change  of  rates,  charges,
    30  terms  and  conditions  of  service, the adoption of rules, regulations,
    31  guidelines, orders, standards or final policy decisions where the utili-
    32  ty consumer advocate deems  such  initiation,  intervention  or  partic-
    33  ipation to be necessary or appropriate;
    34    (b)  represent  the  interests of residential utility customers of the
    35  state before federal, state  and  local  administrative  and  regulatory
    36  agencies engaged in the regulation of energy, telecommunications, water,
    37  and  other  utility  services,  and  before  state and federal courts in
    38  actions and proceedings to review the actions of utilities or orders  of

    39  utility  regulatory  agencies.  Any  action or proceeding brought by the
    40  utility consumer advocate before a court or an agency shall  be  brought
    41  in  the  name  of the state office of the utility consumer advocate. The
    42  utility consumer advocate may join with a residential  utility  customer
    43  or group of residential utility customers in bringing an action;
    44    (c)  (i) in addition to any other authority conferred upon the utility
    45  consumer advocate, he or she is authorized, and it shall be his  or  her
    46  duty  to  represent  the interests of residential utility customers as a
    47  party, or otherwise participate for  the  purpose  of  representing  the
    48  interests of such customers before any agencies or courts. He or she may

    49  initiate proceedings if in his or her judgment doing so may be necessary
    50  in  connection  with  any  matter involving the actions or regulation of
    51  public utility companies whether on appeal or otherwise  initiated.  The
    52  utility  consumer advocate may monitor all cases before regulatory agen-
    53  cies in the United States, including the federal communications  commis-
    54  sion and the federal energy regulatory commission that affect the inter-
    55  ests  of  residential  utility  customers  of the state and may formally

        A. 6239--B                          3
 
     1  participate in those proceedings which in his or her  judgment  warrants
     2  such participation.
     3    (ii) the utility consumer advocate shall exercise his or her independ-

     4  ent  discretion  in  determining  the  interests  of residential utility
     5  customers that will be advocated  in  any  proceeding,  and  determining
     6  whether  to  participate in or initiate any proceeding and, in so deter-
     7  mining, shall consider the public interest, the resources available, and
     8  the substantiality of the effect of the proceeding on  the  interest  of
     9  residential utility customers;
    10    (d)  request  and  receive  from any state or local authority, agency,
    11  department or division  of  the  state  or  political  subdivision  such
    12  assistance,  personnel, information, books, records, other documentation
    13  and cooperation necessary to perform its duties; and
    14    (e) enter into cooperative agreements with other government offices to

    15  efficiently carry out its work.
    16    § 28-d. Reports. On July first,  two  thousand  fifteen  and  annually
    17  thereafter,  the  state  office  of  the utility consumer advocate shall
    18  issue a report to the governor and the legislature, and make such report
    19  available to the public free of charge on a publicly available  website,
    20  containing, but not limited to, the following information:
    21    (a)  all  proceedings  that  the  state office of the utility consumer
    22  advocate participated in and the outcome of  such  proceedings,  to  the
    23  extent of such outcome and if not confidential;
    24    (b)  estimated  savings to residential utility consumers that resulted
    25  from intervention by the state office of the utility consumer  advocate;
    26  and

    27    (c) policy recommendations and suggested statutory amendments that the
    28  state office of the utility consumer advocate deems necessary.
    29    §  2. This act shall take effect on the first of April next succeeding
    30  the date on which it shall have become a law.
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