NEW YORK STATE ASSEMBLY MEMORANDUM IN SUPPORT OF LEGISLATION submitted in accordance with Assembly Rule III, Sec 1(f)
BILL NUMBER: A3184
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 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.
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
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:
2019-20: A.1966 - Vetoed Memo 259
2017-18: A.7293A - Third Reading Calendar/S.3923A - Referred to Energy
2015-16: A.180-A - Passed Assembly/S.3356-A - Referred to Energy and
2013-14: A.6239-B - Passed Assembly/S.4550-B - Referred to Finance
This act shall take effect of the first of April next succeeding the
date on which it shall have become law.
STATE OF NEW YORK
2021-2022 Regular Sessions
January 22, 2021
Introduced by M. of A. DINOWITZ, PEOPLES-STOKES, PAULIN, GOTTFRIED,
L. ROSENTHAL, ZEBROWSKI, WEPRIN, GALEF, CAHILL, COLTON, ABINANTI,
HEVESI, COOK, STIRPE, STECK, LUPARDO, GUNTHER, PERRY, SANTABARBARA,
JEAN-PIERRE, JOYNER, FAHY, OTIS, HUNTER, BARRETT, SEAWRIGHT, LAVINE,
TAYLOR, RA, MONTESANO, SMITH, ENGLEBRIGHT, SIMON, GRIFFIN, BENEDETTO
-- Multi-Sponsored by -- M. of A. GLICK, J. RIVERA, THIELE -- read
once and referred to the Committee on Consumer Affairs and Protection
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
8 28-c. Powers of the state office of the utility consumer advo-
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.
16 (d) "Utility company" means any person or entity operating an agency
17 for public service, including, but not limited to, those persons or
18 entities subject to the jurisdiction, supervision and regulations
19 prescribed by or pursuant to the provisions of this chapter.
EXPLANATION--Matter in italics (underscored) is new; matter in brackets
 is old law to be omitted.
A. 3184 2
1 § 28-b. Establishment of the state office of the utility consumer
2 advocate. There is established the state office of the utility consumer
3 advocate to represent the interests of residential utility customers.
4 The utility consumer advocate shall be appointed by the governor to a
5 term of six years, upon the advice and consent of the senate. The utili-
6 ty consumer advocate shall possess knowledge and experience in matters
7 affecting residential utility customers and shall be responsible for the
8 direction, control, and operation of the state office of the utility
9 consumer advocate, including its hiring of staff and retention of
10 experts for analysis and testimony in proceedings. The utility consumer
11 advocate shall not be removed for cause, but may be removed only after
12 notice and opportunity to be heard, and only for permanent disability,
13 malfeasance, a felony, or conduct involving moral turpitude. Exercise of
14 independent judgment in advocating positions on behalf of residential
15 utility customers shall not constitute cause for removal of the utility
16 consumer advocate.
17 § 28-c. Powers of the state office of the utility consumer advocate.
18 The state office of the utility consumer advocate shall have the power
19 and duty to: (a) initiate, intervene in, or participate on behalf of
20 residential utility customers in any proceedings before the commission,
21 the federal energy regulatory commission, the federal communications
22 commission, federal, state and local administrative and regulatory agen-
23 cies, and state and federal courts in any matter or proceeding that may
24 substantially affect the interests of residential utility customers,
25 including, but not limited to, a proposed change of rates, charges,
26 terms and conditions of service, the adoption of rules, regulations,
27 guidelines, orders, standards or final policy decisions where the utili-
28 ty consumer advocate deems such initiation, intervention or partic-
29 ipation to be necessary or appropriate;
30 (b) represent the interests of residential utility customers of the
31 state before federal, state and local administrative and regulatory
32 agencies engaged in the regulation of energy, telecommunications, water,
33 and other utility services, and before state and federal courts in
34 actions and proceedings to review the actions of utilities or orders of
35 utility regulatory agencies. Any action or proceeding brought by the
36 utility consumer advocate before a court or an agency shall be brought
37 in the name of the state office of the utility consumer advocate. The
38 utility consumer advocate may join with a residential utility customer
39 or group of residential utility customers in bringing an action;
40 (c) (i) in addition to any other authority conferred upon the utility
41 consumer advocate, he or she is authorized, and it shall be his or her
42 duty to represent the interests of residential utility customers as a
43 party, or otherwise participate for the purpose of representing the
44 interests of such customers before any agencies or courts. He or she may
45 initiate proceedings if in his or her judgment doing so may be necessary
46 in connection with any matter involving the actions or regulation of
47 public utility companies whether on appeal or otherwise initiated. The
48 utility consumer advocate may monitor all cases before regulatory agen-
49 cies in the United States, including the federal communications commis-
50 sion and the federal energy regulatory commission that affect the inter-
51 ests of residential utility customers of the state and may formally
52 participate in those proceedings which in his or her judgment warrants
53 such participation.
54 (ii) the utility consumer advocate shall exercise his or her independ-
55 ent discretion in determining the interests of residential utility
56 customers that will be advocated in any proceeding, and determining
A. 3184 3
1 whether to participate in or initiate any proceeding and, in so deter-
2 mining, shall consider the public interest, the resources available, and
3 the substantiality of the effect of the proceeding on the interest of
4 residential utility customers;
5 (d) request and receive from any state or local authority, agency,
6 department or division of the state or political subdivision such
7 assistance, personnel, information, books, records, other documentation
8 and cooperation necessary to perform its duties; and
9 (e) enter into cooperative agreements with other government offices to
10 efficiently carry out its work.
11 § 28-d. Reports. On July first, two thousand twenty-two and annually
12 thereafter, the state office of the utility consumer advocate shall
13 issue a report to the governor and the legislature, and make such report
14 available to the public free of charge on a publicly available website,
15 containing, but not limited to, the following information:
16 (a) all proceedings that the state office of the utility consumer
17 advocate participated in and the outcome of such proceedings, to the
18 extent of such outcome and if not confidential;
19 (b) estimated savings to residential utility consumers that resulted
20 from intervention by the state office of the utility consumer advocate;
22 (c) policy recommendations and suggested statutory amendments that the
23 state office of the utility consumer advocate deems necessary.
24 § 2. This act shall take effect on the first of April next succeeding
25 the date on which it shall have become a law.