senate Bill S4550A

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:S4550A

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--A

                       2013-2014 Regular Sessions

                            I N  S E N A T E

                             April 10, 2013
                               ___________

Introduced  by  Sens.  SAVINO,  ADDABBO,  AVELLA,  CARLUCCI,  ESPAILLAT,
  GRISANTI, HANNON, HASSELL-THOMPSON, HOYLMAN, KENNEDY, KLEIN,  KRUEGER,
  LATIMER,  MONTGOMERY,  PARKER,  SAMPSON, SQUADRON, TKACZYK, VALESKY --
  read twice and ordered printed, and when printed to  be  committed  to
  the Committee on Finance -- recommitted to the Committee on Finance in
  accordance  with  Senate  Rule 6, sec. 8 -- committee discharged, bill
  amended, ordered reprinted as amended and recommitted to said  commit-
  tee

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

 EXPLANATION--Matter in ITALICS (underscored) is new; matter in brackets
                      [ ] is old law to be omitted.
                                                           LBD09713-06-4

S. 4550--A                          2

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
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 section 12 of part A of
chapter 173 of the laws of 2013, 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  or  the  department  of  public
service, INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED to the extent authorized by sections
three-b,  twenty-four-a,  seventy-one,  eighty-four or ninety-six of the
public service law or any other applicable provision of law, THE FEDERAL
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  [services],
TELECOMMUNICATIONS,  WATER  AND OTHER UTILITY SERVICES, AND BEFORE STATE
AND FEDERAL 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 RESI-
DENTIAL UTILITY CUSTOMER OR GROUP OF RESIDENTIAL  UTILITY  CUSTOMERS  IN
BRINGING AN ACTION;
  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

S. 4550--A                          3

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
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 A of  chapter  173  of  the
laws of 2013, 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 the Long  Island  power
authority  and  a  bill  shall  be  rendered to each such public utility
company and authority. BASED ON THE ESTIMATE PROVIDED PURSUANT TO  PARA-
GRAPH  (D)  OF SUBDIVISION TWO OF SECTION NINETY-FOUR-A OF THE EXECUTIVE
LAW, THE CHAIRMAN SHALL DETERMINE THE AMOUNT TO BE PAID BY EACH ASSESSED
PUBLIC UTILITY COMPANY AND THE LONG ISLAND POWER AUTHORITY  AND  A  BILL
SHALL BE RENDERED TO EACH SUCH PUBLIC UTILITY COMPANY.
  S  6.  This  act  shall take effect on April 1, 2015; provided however
that if section 12 of part A of chapter 173 of the laws  of  2013  shall
not  have taken effect on or before such date then section three of this
act shall take effect on the same date and in the same  manner  as  such
chapter of the laws of 2013 takes effect.

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