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Guide to Becoming a Party 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.

What is a party to a proceeding?

All proceedings provide a person the opportunity to participate either as a member of the public, or as a party. A member of the public participates in a proceeding solely to express a personal opinion on the case. 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 please see Guidelines for Contested Case Proceeding

*For more information regarding Public Participation please see Guidelines for Contested Case Proceeding

What is an Intervenor?

An intervenor is a party to an existing proceeding who participates to protect or advance a substantial interest that may be affected by the Commission’s decision. An intervenor may also participate to offer a particular perspective that will promote the proper disposition of the issues. To become and intervenor a person must file a request for intervention, and be admitted as a party into the proceeding by the Administrative Law Judge.

Each time the PSC opens a proceeding, it issues a notice of proceeding. The PSC emails this notice to existing parties, media outlets, and local officials in the area of concern. Also if the case involves a proposal to build utility facilities, the PSC sends the notice to any person who owns land in the potentially affected area. This notice includes instruction on how and when to file a request to intervene. Typically, the period to file a request for intervention is 14 days after issuance of the notice.

*For more information regarding Intervenor Compensation please see Intervenor Compensation

**For an informational presentation about participating in PSC Proceedings see this document

Guide to the Rate Cases Process

Overview

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

A rate case begins with a utility application. The utility provides forecasts of how much money its estimates will be needed to cover its expenses for in the next year. This includes a proposed return on its investment in assets used to provide service to its customers (such as power plants, electric lines or gas mains), which the utility uses to pay interest on money it borrows and to compensate investors. The utility also proposes customer rates, set at levels that the utility expects would generate enough revenue to cover its expenses and provide a return.

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.

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

 

At the completion of the hearings and comment period in any given proceeding, 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 utilities and other parties. After the Commissioners have reviewed 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.

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 requires 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.

 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.