Major Cases

Guide to the Rate Case Process

Overview of the Rate Case Process
Before a public utility can raise its rates, it must file an application with the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (PSC). The utility provides detailed information and proposals on its rate increase request. PSC staff analyzes the utility’s information, and develops additional information and alternative proposals for the Commission to consider. The rate case process also involves many opportunities for public input. These include the opportunity to participate in a formal trial-type hearing, and the opportunity to simply offer a comment. Commissioners review the all the information collected in this process to determine if a rate increase is appropriate.
PSC Review

PSC staff audits the utility’s financial records, examines the utility’s forecasts and proposals, and develops additional information. PSC staff also makes proposals about how much revenue the utility needs to operate and how customer rates should be set.

Public Participation

The rate case process includes a proceeding in order to create a record of evidence the Commissioners will use to evaluate the application. A proceeding involves a formal trial-type hearing, called a "party hearing session", where parties and PSC staff present expert testimony on the issues in the case. A proceeding also includes ways in which a member of the public may track, observe and comment on the case.

• For more information about proceedings and how the public may participate in a proceeding, see " Guide to Public Participation

PSC Decision

At the completion of the hearings and comment period the Commissioners receive the record which consists of all the party testimony and exhibits, and the party hearing session transcript. The record also contains all the public comments received, by mail, online, or at any public hearing session. A briefing period for the parties may follow the hearing. Briefs are written arguments about issues the Commissioners need to decide. They are usually written by lawyers for the utility and other parties. After the Commissioners have reviewed of the record, the PSC schedules an Open Meeting for the Commissioners to talk about the issues presented and ultimately state their position on a case. These meetings are held in Madison, are open for the public to observe, and are broadcast over the Internet via the PSC’s website. At this Open Meeting the Commissioners vote either to approve or deny the proposal, or approve the proposal with modifications or conditions. After the Commissioners reach a preliminary decision in an Open Meeting, the PSC issues a final, written order for Commissioners to review. Once approved, the order is sent by email to the parties, and posted on the Electronic Records Filing System (ERF) on the PSC's website: http://psc.wi.gov

For More Information

If you need more information about participating in PSC proceedings, or have questions about a specific docket, look at the PSC website, contact the docket coordinator, or call the PSC. The Public Service Commission of Wisconsin is an independent state agency that oversees more than 1,100 Wisconsin public utilities that provide natural gas, electricity, heat, steam, water and telecommunications services.

Public Service Commission of Wisconsin
P.O. Box 7854 Madison, WI 53707-7854
Telephone: 608-266-5481 Toll free: 888-816-3831
Consumer affairs: 608-266-2001 / 800-225-7729
Fax: 608-266-3957
Website: http://psc.wi.gov

Guide to the Utility Project Review Process

Overview

The Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (PSC) regulates the construction of facilities by Wisconsin’s utilities and in the case of large electric facilities, those proposed by independent developers. PSC staff analyzes utility construction applications for need, and potential impacts of the plant and any associated facilities. Two aspects of a proposed project determine the type of review the PSC must conduct: 1) size and cost; and 2) potential environment impact. A project that falls under a low threshold for size and cost, receives an informal review from PSC staff. A project that goes above those thresholds require a Certificate of Authority (CA) from the PSC before construction may commence. Proposed electric generation facilities of 100 or more megawatts (MW), and proposed high-voltage electric transmission lines of 345 kV or more, require a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (CPCN) prior to construction. The PSC review process varies depending upon the size and complexity of the project and the certificate sought by the applicant, but it generally takes about six months to a year to complete.

Application

The project review process begins with an application. Generally, an application includes information about the need, cost, size and location of the proposed project. Applications for proposed power plants of 100 or more megawatts (MW), and proposed high-voltage electric transmission lines of 345 kV or more, must include information for two or more sites or routes, detailed engineering plans, plant costs (public utilities only), and a review of potential environmental and community impacts. Non-utility power plant applicants are exempt from a "needs" test or demonstrating how its engineering specifications are better than available alternatives. A utility may apply to site a project on land it does not own. A utility may negotiate with a landowner for purchase an easement to contract and operate the facility and a right-of-way for access to the facility for operation and maintenance. A utility may also purchase the site in full. The PSC provides no oversight of these negotiations. And if the utility and landowner cannot reach agreement, the utility may pursue an eminent domain action to condemn the property. For a project that requires a CPCN, statutes prevent a utility for seeking condemnation until the CPCN issues. Often the applicant holds public meetings before filing the application. At these meetings, the public has the opportunity to provide the applicant with information and comments on the preliminary design.

PSC Review

Depending on the potential environment impact of a project PSC staff will either prepare an Environmental Assessment (EA) or an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). After conducting an EA, PSC Staff may determine that the impacts of project require the preparation of an EIS. If the project requires the preparation of an EIS, PSC staff will prepare a draft EIS. The draft EIS is an extensive document that analyzes the project’s cost, need, alternatives, fuel, technology, air and water discharges, solid and hazardous waste issues, land resources, and community impacts. Members of the public can request a copy of the draft EIS from the PSC, review the document at a local library or municipal office, or download it from the PSC website. The applicant and the public will have about 45 days to comment on the draft EIS. Within that 45-day period, the PSC might hold a public hearing on the draft EIS. The final EIS will be prepared considering the comments and concerns raised by the public. The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) will review the application for air, solid waste, water quality, and water discharge permits. The DNR and the PSC may propose changes in project design or site location to protect the environment or affected community.

Public Notification Letter and Scoping Meetings

After an application is filed, the PSC notifies the public that the review process is beginning. The PSC sends a public notification letter to all property owners on or near the potential sites, as well as local government officials, local libraries, the media, and other agencies and interested persons. This notification briefly describes the project; includes a map; identifies the level of environmental review the project will require; lists places where copies of the application are available for review; and gives contact information for comments and questions. The PSC will often hold a project scoping meeting after notifying the public about the project. A project scooping meeting is not a hearing. It is an informal event that gives the public a chance to learn about the proposed project, ask questions, and talk directly with the utility, DNR, or PSC staff. Meetings may be held one or more times during the review process and are held in the area of the proposed project.

Public Participation

The Commission provides anyone the opportunity to participate in the utility project application review process. The PSC encourages public participation when reviewing project proposals because public input is essential to ensuring all perspectives are considered in a case. Opportunities for the public participation in these cases are listed below, but may vary depending on the type of project proposed.

1. Attend the public information meetings organized by the applicant

2. Attend the PSC scoping meetings (CPCN only)

3. Ask questions of the applicant, DNR, and PSC staff

4. Read and comment on the EA and/or EIS

5. Submit written comments or testify at a PSC hearing (if held)

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

• For more information about proceedings and how the public may participate in a proceeding, see " Guide to Public Participation

PSC Decision

At the completion of the hearings and comment period the Commissioners receive the record which consists of all the party testimony and exhibits, and the party hearing session transcript. The record also contains all the public comments received by mail, online, or at any public hearing session. A briefing period for the parties may follow the hearings. Briefs are written arguments about issues the Commission needs to decide. They are usually written by lawyers for the utility and other parties. After the Commission has reviewed the record, the PSC schedules an Open Meeting for the Commissioners to discuss the issues presented, and ultimately state their position on a case. These meetings are held in Madison, are open for the public to observe, and are often broadcast over the Internet, via the PSC’s website. At this Open Meeting the Commissioners vote either to approve or deny the proposal, or approve the proposal with modifications or conditions. After the Commissioners reach a preliminary decision in an Open Meeting, the PSC issues a final, written order for Commissioners to review. Once approved, the order is sent by email to the parties, and posted on Electronic Records Filing System (ERF) on the PSC's website: http://psc.wi.gov.

For More Information

If you need more information about participating in PSC proceedings, or have questions about a specific docket, look at the PSC website, contact the docket coordinator, or call the PSC. The Public Service Commission of Wisconsin is an independent state agency that oversees more than 1,100 Wisconsin public utilities that provide natural gas, electricity, heat, steam, water and telecommunications services.

Public Service Commission of Wisconsin
P.O. Box 7854 Madison, WI 53707-7854
Telephone: 608-266-5481 Toll free: 888-816-3831
Consumer affairs: 608-266-2001 / 800-225-7729
Fax: 608-266-3957
Website: http://psc.wi.gov