senate Bill S4550

Amended

Creates the state office of the utility consumer advocate

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Bill Status


  • Introduced
  • In Committee
  • On Floor Calendar
    • Passed Senate
    • Passed Assembly
  • Delivered to Governor
  • Signed/Vetoed by Governor
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actions

  • 10 / Apr / 2013
    • REFERRED TO FINANCE
  • 08 / Jan / 2014
    • REFERRED TO FINANCE
  • 14 / Feb / 2014
    • AMEND AND RECOMMIT TO FINANCE
  • 14 / Feb / 2014
    • PRINT NUMBER 4550A
  • 11 / Apr / 2014
    • AMEND (T) AND RECOMMIT TO FINANCE
  • 11 / Apr / 2014
    • PRINT NUMBER 4550B

Summary

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

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Bill Details

Versions:
S4550
S4550A
S4550B
Legislative Cycle:
2013-2014
Current Committee:
Senate Finance
Law Section:
Executive Law
Laws Affected:
Amd §94-a, Exec L; amd §18-a, Pub Serv L

Sponsor Memo

BILL NUMBER:S4550

TITLE OF BILL: An act to amend the executive law and 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.

SUMMARY OF PROVISIONS:

Section 1 amends subdivision 2 of section 94-a of the executive law by
adding a new paragraph d which would require the Secretary of State to
provide an estimate to the Department of Public Service prior to the
start of each fiscal year, for the funds necessary to operate the
State Office of the Utility Consumer Advocate.

Section 2 amends paragraph a of subdivision 4 of section 94-a of the
executive law and provides for the creation of the State Office of the
Utility Consumer Advocate who is charged with representing the
interests of residential utility customers. This section sets the
appointment process, term of the appointment, and general duties for
the Utility Consumer Advocate.

Section 3 amends subparagraph i and ii of paragraph b of subdivision 4
of section 94-a of the executive law and outlines the instances in
which the Utility Consumer Advocate may intervene and/or bring actions
on behalf of residential utility customers

Section 4 amends subdivision 4 of section 94-a of the executive law by
adding a new paragraph c that further outlines the Utility Consumer
Advocate's authority and duties.

Section 5 amends paragraph a of subdivision 2 of section 18-a of the
public service law to require the Chairman of the Public Services
Commission to include the cost estimate provided in paragraph d of
subdivision two of section 94-a of the executive law with the total
assessment to be paid by each assessed public utility company.

Section 6 sets the effective date.

JUSTIFICATION:

Currently more than 40 states and the District of Columbia have an
independent state agency that represents the interests of residential
utility 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 judicial 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
utilities 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 Utility 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.

view bill text
                    S T A T E   O F   N E W   Y O R K
________________________________________________________________________

                                  4550

                       2013-2014 Regular Sessions

                            I N  S E N A T E

                             April 10, 2013
                               ___________

Introduced  by  Sen.  SAVINO -- read twice and ordered printed, and when
  printed to be committed to the Committee on Finance

AN ACT to amend the  executive  law  and  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:

  Section 1. Subdivision 2 of section  94-a  of  the  executive  law  is
amended by adding a new paragraph (d) to read as follows:
  (D)  THE  SECRETARY,  UPON  ADVICE  OF THE STATE OFFICE OF THE UTILITY
CONSUMER ADVOCATE, SHALL PROVIDE TO THE DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SERVICE  AN
ESTIMATE  PRIOR  TO THE START OF EACH FISCAL YEAR OF THE TOTAL COSTS AND
EXPENSES, EXCEPT ANY FUNDS APPROPRIATED  FOR  THE  UTILITY  INTERVENTION
UNIT, INCLUDING THE COMPENSATION AND EXPENSES OF THE STATE OFFICE OF THE
UTILITY  CONSUMER  ADVOCATE,  ITS  OFFICERS,  AGENTS  AND EMPLOYEES, AND
INCLUDING THE COST OF RETIREMENT CONTRIBUTIONS, SOCIAL SECURITY,  HEALTH
AND  DENTAL INSURANCE, SURVIVOR'S BENEFITS, WORKERS' COMPENSATION, UNEM-
PLOYMENT INSURANCE AND OTHER FRINGE BENEFITS REQUIRED TO BE PAID BY  THE
STATE  FOR  THE  PERSONNEL  OF  THE STATE OFFICE OF THE UTILITY CONSUMER
ADVOCATE, AND INCLUDING ALL OTHER ITEMS  OF  MAINTENANCE  AND  OPERATION
EXPENSES, AND ALL OTHER DIRECT AND INDIRECT COSTS.
  S  2.  Paragraph (a) of subdivision 4 of section 94-a of the executive
law, as added by section 21 of part A of chapter 62 of the laws of 2011,
is amended to read as follows:
  (a) There is established within the division a  state  utility  inter-
vention  unit  AND  THE STATE OFFICE OF THE UTILITY CONSUMER ADVOCATE TO
REPRESENT THE INTERESTS OF RESIDENTIAL UTILITY  CUSTOMERS.  THE  UTILITY
CONSUMER  ADVOCATE,  WHO  SHALL  HEAD  THE  STATE  OFFICE OF THE UTILITY
CONSUMER ADVOCATE, SHALL BE APPOINTED BY THE GOVERNOR TO A TERM  OF  SIX
YEARS,  SUBJECT  TO  SENATE  CONFIRMATION. THE UTILITY CONSUMER ADVOCATE
SHALL POSSESS KNOWLEDGE AND EXPERIENCE IN MATTERS AFFECTING  RESIDENTIAL
UTILITY  CUSTOMERS, SHALL BE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE DIRECTION, CONTROL, AND

 EXPLANATION--Matter in ITALICS (underscored) is new; matter in brackets
                      [ ] is old law to be omitted.
                                                           LBD09713-02-3

S. 4550                             2

OPERATION OF THE UTILITY INTERVENTION  UNIT,  INCLUDING  ITS  HIRING  OF
STAFF   AND   RETENTION   OF  EXPERTS  FOR  ANALYSIS  AND  TESTIMONY  IN
PROCEEDINGS. THE UTILITY CONSUMER ADVOCATE SHALL NOT BE  REMOVED  EXCEPT
FOR  CAUSE.  EXERCISE OF INDEPENDENT JUDGMENT IN ADVOCATING POSITIONS ON
BEHALF OF RESIDENTIAL UTILITY CUSTOMERS SHALL NOT CONSTITUTE  CAUSE  FOR
REMOVAL OF THE UTILITY CONSUMER ADVOCATE.
  S  3.  Subparagraphs (i) and (ii) of paragraph (b) of subdivision 4 of
section 94-a of the executive law, as amended by chapter 8 of  the  laws
of 2012, are amended to read as follows:
  (i)  [on  behalf of the secretary,] initiate, intervene in, or partic-
ipate ON BEHALF OF RESIDENTIAL  UTILITY  CUSTOMERS  in  any  proceedings
before  the  public  service  commission,  [to  the extent authorized by
sections twenty-four-a, seventy-one, eighty-four or  ninety-six  of  the
public service law or any other applicable provision of law,] THE FEDER-
AL  ENERGY REGULATORY COMMISSION, THE FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION,
FEDERAL, STATE AND LOCAL ADMINISTRATIVE  AND  REGULATORY  AGENCIES,  AND
STATE  AND  FEDERAL COURTS IN ANY MATTER OR PROCEEDING THAT MAY SUBSTAN-
TIALLY AFFECT THE INTERESTS OF RESIDENTIAL UTILITY CUSTOMERS, INCLUDING,
BUT NOT LIMITED TO, A PROPOSED  CHANGE  OF  RATES,  CHARGES,  TERMS  AND
CONDITIONS  OF  SERVICE, THE ADOPTION OF RULES, REGULATIONS, GUIDELINES,
ORDERS, STANDARDS OR FINAL POLICY DECISIONS where [he or she] THE UTILI-
TY CONSUMER ADVOCATE deems  such  initiation,  intervention  or  partic-
ipation to be necessary or appropriate;
  (ii)  represent  the  interests  of  [consumers]  RESIDENTIAL  UTILITY
CUSTOMERS of the state before federal, state  and  local  administrative
and  regulatory agencies engaged in the regulation of energy, TELECOMMU-
NICATIONS, WATER AND OTHER UTILITY services, AND BEFORE STATE AND FEDER-
AL COURTS IN ACTIONS AND PROCEEDINGS TO REVIEW THE ACTIONS OF  UTILITIES
OR  ORDERS  OF  UTILITY  REGULATORY  AGENCIES.  ANY ACTION OR PROCEEDING
BROUGHT BY THE UTILITY CONSUMER ADVOCATE BEFORE A  COURT  OR  AN  AGENCY
SHALL BE BROUGHT IN THE NAME OF THE STATE OFFICE OF THE UTILITY CONSUMER
ADVOCATE.  THE  UTILITY  CONSUMER  ADVOCATE  MAY JOIN WITH A RESIDENTIAL
UTILITY CUSTOMER OR GROUP OF RESIDENTIAL UTILITY CUSTOMERS  IN  BRINGING
AN ACTION; and
  S  4. Subdivision 4 of section 94-a of the executive law is amended by
adding a new paragraph (c) to read as follows:
  (C) (I) IN ADDITION TO ANY OTHER AUTHORITY CONFERRED UPON THE  UTILITY
CONSUMER  ADVOCATE,  HE OR SHE IS AUTHORIZED, AND IT SHALL BE HIS OR HER
DUTY TO REPRESENT THE INTERESTS OF RESIDENTIAL UTILITY  CUSTOMERS  AS  A
PARTY,  OR  OTHERWISE  PARTICIPATE  FOR  THE PURPOSE OF REPRESENTING THE
INTERESTS OF SUCH CUSTOMERS BEFORE ANY AGENCIES OR COURTS. HE OR SHE MAY
INITIATE PROCEEDINGS IF IN HIS OR HER JUDGMENT DOING SO MAY BE NECESSARY
IN CONNECTION WITH ANY MATTER INVOLVING THE  ACTIONS  OR  REGULATION  OF
PUBLIC  UTILITY  COMPANIES WHETHER ON APPEAL OR OTHERWISE INITIATED. THE
UTILITY CONSUMER ADVOCATE MAY MONITOR ALL CASES BEFORE REGULATORY  AGEN-
CIES  IN THE UNITED STATES, INCLUDING THE FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMIS-
SION AND THE FEDERAL ENERGY REGULATORY COMMISSION THAT AFFECT THE INTER-
ESTS OF RESIDENTIAL UTILITY CUSTOMERS OF  THE  STATE  AND  MAY  FORMALLY
PARTICIPATE  IN  THOSE PROCEEDINGS WHICH IN HIS OR HER JUDGMENT WARRANTS
SUCH PARTICIPATION.
  (II) THE UTILITY CONSUMER ADVOCATE SHALL EXERCISE HIS OR HER INDEPEND-
ENT DISCRETION IN  DETERMINING  THE  INTERESTS  OF  RESIDENTIAL  UTILITY
CUSTOMERS THAT WILL BE ADVOCATED IN ANY PROCEEDING AND DETERMINE WHETHER
TO  PARTICIPATE  IN  OR  INITIATE ANY PROCEEDING AND, IN SO DETERMINING,
SHALL CONSIDER THE PUBLIC INTEREST, THE  RESOURCES  AVAILABLE,  AND  THE

S. 4550                             3

SUBSTANTIALITY  OF THE EFFECT OF THE PROCEEDING ON THE INTEREST OF RESI-
DENTIAL UTILITY CUSTOMERS.
  S  5.  Paragraph  (a)  of  subdivision 2 of section 18-a of the public
service law, as amended by section 2 of part NN of  chapter  59  of  the
laws of 2009, is amended to read as follows:
  (a)  The  chairman of the department shall estimate prior to the start
of each state fiscal year the total costs and  expenses,  including  the
compensation  and  expenses  of the commission and the department, their
officers, agents and employees, and including  the  cost  of  retirement
contributions,  social security, health and dental insurance, survivor's
benefits, workers' compensation, unemployment insurance and other fringe
benefits required to be paid by the  state  for  the  personnel  of  the
commission  and the department, and including all other items of mainte-
nance and operation expenses, and all other direct and  indirect  costs.
Based  on  such estimates, the chairman shall determine the amount to be
paid by each assessed  public  utility  company  and  a  bill  shall  be
rendered  to  each  such public utility company.   BASED ON THE ESTIMATE
PROVIDED PURSUANT TO PARAGRAPH (D) OF SUBDIVISION TWO OF  SECTION  NINE-
TY-FOUR-A  OF THE EXECUTIVE LAW, THE CHAIRMAN SHALL DETERMINE THE AMOUNT
TO BE PAID BY EACH ASSESSED PUBLIC UTILITY COMPANY AND A BILL  SHALL  BE
RENDERED TO EACH SUCH PUBLIC UTILITY COMPANY.
  S  6. This act shall take effect on the first of April next succeeding
the date on which it shall have become a law.

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