Public Utilities Regulatory Unit
The Public Utilities Regulatory Unit represents ratepayers and citizens of the State of Rhode Island in all matters affecting the provision of public utility services as defined by Title 39, Ch. 1-5 of the Rhode Island General Laws. Such services include municipal and investor-owned utilities that provide one or more of the following utility services to Rhode Island consumers: electric, gas, water, telephone, sewer, and cable; as well as all common carriers: taxis, towers, movers and limousines operating in the state.
The primary vehicle for the Unit’s practice is to serve as legal counsel to the Division of Public Utilities and Carriers (the “Division”) in proceedings before the Public Utilities Commission. In this capacity, the Unit provides legal counsel to the Division with the principal aim of protecting ratepayers from public utilities’ efforts to charge unreasonable rates or engage in unreasonable practices. The Unit represents the Division before all state and federal trial and appellate courts of competent jurisdiction.
In 2012, the Unit successfully litigated utility issues on behalf of the Division in the areas of gas, electric, and municipal water, generating more than $7.6 million in savings and fines to Rhode Island ratepayers and consumers.
Proceedings successfully resolved include negotiating a settlement with the state’s principal electric and gas utility in connection with the utility’s infrastructure, safety and reliability plans saving ratepayers a total of $3.3 million, the defense of multi-year rate increase requests by local municipal water utilities, saving ratepayers approximately $1 million; and the review of a purchased power agreement producing savings for ratepayers of over $2 million.
The Division also successfully obtained dismissal of a complaint at FERC challenging approval of a 15-year distributed generation standard contract as a violation of the Federal Power Act, and successfully defended an appeal of a Division Order approving an application for a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity thereby affording the public with a jitney service to meet an underserved transportation niche.
On the legislative front, the Unit assisted the Division in increasing fines for natural gas pipeline safety violations to conform Rhode Island law to federal law, i.e., $250,000 for each violation up to $2.5 million for a related series of violations. Lastly, in proceedings before the Division the Attorney General assisted the agency in collecting over $180,000 in civil fines against taxi, ferry, movers and towing companies for a variety of regulatory violations.