Public Participation

Guide to Public Participation in PSC Proceedings

What is a proceeding?

The Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (PSC) regulates the rates and services of the state's public utilities and reviews the need, cost, and location of new utility facilities. For each proposal the PSC conducts a proceeding to create a record of evidence that pertains to the case. This record is the only information upon which the Commission may rely when making its decision on a proposal.

• For more information on the rate case process, see Guide to the Rate Case Process.

• For more information on the construction review process, see Guide to the Utility Project Review Process.

How to participate in a proceeding?

All proceedings provide the opportunity to participate either as a party, or as a member of the public. How a person participates in a proceeding depends on that person's interest in the issues and outcome of the case. Anyone may participate in a proceeding as a member of the public to express a personal opinion on the case. More information about how to do so appears in the section below called Public Participation. A person participates as party to protect or advance a substantial interest that may be affected by the Commission's decision on a proposal. A party may also participate to offer a particular perspective that will promote the proper disposition of the issues. To become a party a person must either: 1) initiate a proceeding by application, petition, or complaint, or 2) intervene in an existing proceeding. For all parties, participation must occur in a formal trial-type hearing process.

•For more information on Party Participation please see Guide to Party Participation.

Public Participation

The PSC encourages public participation in its proceedings because public input is essential to reach the most fair and reasonable decision possible. There are many ways a member of the public can participate in a proceeding.

1. Anyone may follow the progress of a case by accessing the public documents filed for that case through the Electronic Records Filing System (ERF) on the PSC website: http://apps.psc.wi.gov/pages/ERFhome.htm. Those interested may sign up to receive e-mail notifications whenever a document is filed in a particular case. Information on how to receive e-mail notices appears at: http://apps.psc.wi.gov/vs2015/ERF/ERFhome.aspx.

2. In all proceedings the public may comment by mail, or file a comment on the PSC website, http://apps.psc.wi.gov/pages/publicComment.htm. The notice of hearing for each proceeding contains instructions on filing comments and the comment filing deadline.

3. PSC staff may, from time to time, solicit comments from the public to aid in identifying issues and concerns for development of an environmental assessment or environmental impact statement (EIS). Public comments are also solicited by PSC staff after it issues a preliminary determination on the need to prepare an EIS, and on a draft EIS if one is prepared. These public comments are used by Commission staff but are not made part of the official record in a docket. Notifications are mailed out by Commission staff when public comments are needed and when such comments are being accepted. There are no formal requirements for submitting these types of comments to Commission staff.

4. In more significant cases, the PSC will also conduct one or more live hearings to gather public comments. The PSC calls these hearings as "public hearing sessions". See the next section for more details on this form of participation.


Public Hearing Session

If the PSC schedules a public hearing session, it will announce the time, date and location in a notice which is mailed to parties and media outlets, and post to the Electronic Records Filing System (ERF). The PSC strives to schedule this session at times and locations convenient to the public. But if you cannot attend the session, a written comment sent by mail, or submitted online has the same weight when considered by Commissioners. The PSC wants to encourage participation at these sessions by making testifying simple and straight forward. The PSC’s Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) supervises the session. The ALJ ensures the hearing is conducted in a fair and orderly manner and that everyone has a chance to voice their opinions. PSC staff also attends these sessions. They are available at all times to answer questions, and shepherd you through the comment process. When you arrive at the hearing, PSC staff will provide you with an appearance slip. Simply fill out the slip with your name and contact information. Check the box on the slip that indicates you wish to speak and hand it back to PSC Staff. If you do not wish to speak but instead wish to submit a comment in writing, leave the box unchecked and fill your comment in on the lines provided at the bottom and opposite side of the page. Then hand your slip back to PSC Staff. For an on-line copy of an appearance slip, see Appearance Slip-Public you may print this slip and fill it out before you arrive at the session. If you indicated that you wish to speak PSC Staff will deliver your slip to the ALJ. The ALJ will call upon speakers in the order in which slips are received. When the ALJ calls your name you may approach the witness seat where the ALJ will swear you in, and ask you to state your name and address. Then you may begin your statement. Please speak clearly and at a steady rate so your statement can be accurately recorded, or heard by the court reporter. Sometimes the ALJ will ask a question to help ensure your testimony is clear. The PSC is looking for facts, opinions, concerns, and ideas related to the case. Your comments must be about the subject of the hearing, but may be about any aspect of the case. You can bring exhibits to better clarify your viewpoint. The ALJ will determine if your exhibits can be entered into the record along with your testimony. You do not need an attorney to testify, and you do not need to stay for the entire duration of the hearing.

• For more information about requirements for written comments in lieu of speaking at a hearing see Guide to Request Public Testimony Comments in Lieu of Testimony.

• For more information about making an effective comment, seeGuide to Create an Effective Comment.

•If you are with an organized group whose members share the same opinions, it is often best to choose one or two persons to testify on behalf of the entire group. Acceptance of a petition is at the ALJ’s discretion.

•If you are disabled or hearing impaired, special arrangements will be made for you provided the PSC is notified ahead of time.