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PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION

ORIGIN & FUNCTIONS


[photo, William Donald Schaefer Tower, 6 St. Paul St., Baltimore, Maryland] In 1910, the Public Service Commission was established to regulate public utilities and transportation companies conducting business in Maryland (Chapter 180, Acts of 1910). These include: electric, gas, telephone, water and sewage disposal companies; passenger motor vehicle carriers (sedans, limousines, and charter buses); railroads; and toll bridge companies. The Commission also oversees taxicabs operating in Baltimore City, Baltimore County, Cumberland, and Hagerstown. Additionally, it sets rates for Bay pilots and docking masters.

William Donald Schaefer Tower, 6 St. Paul St., Baltimore, Maryland, July 2003. Photo by Diane F. Evartt.


The Commission sets utility rates and deals with rate adjustments. It also decides matters relating to applications to exercise franchises; approval of issuance of securities; promulgation of new rules and regulations; and quality of utility and common carrier service. It has authority to issue a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity in connection with an application to construct or modify a generating plant or high-voltage overhead transmission lines of a certain capacity.

To supervise and regulate the activities of public utilities, common carriers, and taxicab companies under its jurisdiction, the Commission has broad authority. The General Assembly has provided that "the powers of the Commission shall be liberally construed" so that they may effectively deal with the dynamic nature of public service companies (Code Public Utility Companies Article, sec. 2-112). In addition to setting rates, the Commission collects and maintains records and reports of public service companies; reviews plans for service; inspects equipment; audits financial records; and addresses consumer complaints. It promulgates and enforces rules and regulations, defends its decisions on appeal to State courts, and intervenes in relevant cases before federal regulatory commissions and courts.

The Commission may make joint investigations, hold joint hearings, and issue joint or other concurrent orders in conjunction with any official state or federal board or commission under agreements and compacts between states, under the concurrent powers of states to regulate interstate commerce as an agency of the federal government, or otherwise (Code Public Utility Companies Article, secs. 2-120).

Each utility and common carrier under Commission jurisdiction is assessed a proportionate share of the Commission's direct and indirect expenses.

Appointed by the Governor with Senate advice and consent, the Commission's five members serve five-year terms. The Governor names the chair. Appointed by the Commission, the General Counsel is an attorney-at-law of the State (Code Public Utility Companies Article, secs. 1-101 through 13-207).


OFFICE OF EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

The Executive Director supervises the work of the technical staff of the Commission. In addition to daily regulatory oversight, the Executive Director coordinates analyses of utility filings, the formulation of staff policy positions and the presentation of testimony in formal and informal proceedings.

Under the Executive Director are nine divisions: Accounting Investigations; Demand-Side Management; Economics and Policy Analysis; Electricity; Energy Resources and Markets; Engineering; Staff Counsel; Telecommunications, Gas and Water; and Transportation.

ACCOUNTING INVESTIGATIONS DIVISION
The Accounting Investigations Division audits the financial filings of regulated public utilities. It conducts audits of utility fuel costs and natural gas procurement strategies, and advises the Commission during periodic fuel-cost hearings. The Division also provides advice to the Commission on regulation, revenue requirements, recovery of Clean Air Act expenditures, and utility management audits.

DEMAND-SIDE MANAGEMENT DIVISION
In August 2008, the Demand-Side Management Division was created. The Division reviews and monitors electric and gas utilitiy energy efficiency, conservation, demand reduction, and related programs. To help meet energy and demand reduction targets, the Division tracks goals, reviews programs, and monitors results.

ECONOMICS & POLICY ANALYSIS DIVISION
The Economics and Policy Analysis Division was formed from the Rate Research and Economics Division in 2006. It conducts economic and financial analyses on subjects relevant to the regulation of gas, electric, water and sewer, telecommunications, steam and transportation companies. Such studies are undertaken at the request of the Commission on a specific topic or as part of general economics research and evaluations of energy competition and restructuring issues.

ELECTRICITY DIVISION
Initiated in 2008, the Electricity Division conducts economic financial and policy analyses relevant to the regulation of electric utilities. It studies and reports to the Commission on electricity retail markets, concerns of low-income consumers, and other related issues.

ENERGY RESOURCES & MARKETS DIVISION
The Energy Resources and Markets Division started in 1993 as the Integrated Resource Planning Division. In 2006, it received its present name. The Division analyzes power supply plans, applications for electric generating plant construction, Clean Air Act compliance plans, load management and conservation programs, and other issues which impact the long-term public interest. The Division develops and updates the Ten-Year Plan of Maryland Electric Utilities.

ENGINEERING DIVISION
The operations of public service companies are monitored by the Engineering Division. The Division inspects the facilities and checks them for safety and efficiency. The Division also inspects the operating records of utility companies; investigates utility service problems; and tests gas, electric and water meters for accuracy. For power plants and high-voltage transmission lines, the Division evaluates construction requests and assures that natural gas and hazardous liquid pipelines meet federal safety requirements.

STAFF ATTORNEY DIVISION
In all matters pending before the Commission, the Staff Attorney Division coordinates staff positions and provides legal representation for staff witnesses before the Commission. The Division also reviews utility applications, witness testimony, and the comments of the Commission's technical staff. In addition, the Division coordinates the development of regulations, and answers inquiries from legislators, utilities, regulators, and consumers.

TELECOMMUNICATIONS, GAS & WATER DIVISION
In 2008, the Telecommunications, Gas and Water Division was created from the Telecommunications Division. For the Commission, the Division regulates the delivery of wholesale and retail telecommunications services; retail natural gas services; privately owned for-profit water services; and privately owned sewage disposal services. The Division also provides testimony in contested cases before the Commission.

TRANSPORTATION [COMMON CARRIER INVESTIGATIONS] DIVISION
The Transportation Division oversees the regulation of transportation companies operating in intrastate commerce in Maryland. The Division monitors vehicle safety; limits of liability insurance; schedules of operation; and rates and service for all regulated carriers, except railroads. Moreover, the Division licenses drivers of taxicabs in Baltimore City, Cumberland, and Hagerstown, and other passenger-for-hire vehicles carrying fifteen or fewer passengers.


OFFICE OF EXECUTIVE SECRETARY

The Executive Secretary oversees daily operations of the Commission and is the principal contact for other State agencies, federal agencies, commissions, or companies doing business with the Commission. The Executive Secretary keeps records of all proceedings, filed documents, orders, regulation decisions, dockets, and files. The Office also is responsible for case management; expert services procurement; order preparation; regulation development and coordination; and tariff maintenance. For the Commission, the Executive Secretary oversees information technology, fiscal and budget issues, personnel, purchasing, and procurement.

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 Maryland Manual On-Line, 2009

July 1, 2009   
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