Md. Office of People’s Counsel calling for stricter Public Service Commission oversight

MARYLAND – The Office of People’s Counsel (OPC), a state agency tasked with representing Maryland’s utility customers, is calling for stricter oversight from the Maryland Public Service Commission (MPSC).

Petition Filed, Petition Denied

This comes in response to a petition filed in May by the OPC, requesting that the MPSC require utility companies to provide specific details about how they plan to use federal grant money from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA). The OPC says the MPSC is violating its own oversight responsibilities, by potentially allowing utility companies to apply for millions of federal dollars under the Act, without specific details about the purpose of the applications up front.

David Lapp with OPC says that petition was denied. “If the utilities are left on their own without sufficient regulation and oversight, and if the Commission doesn’t hear from other stakeholders, then we’re very unlikely to see efforts that are in the public interest, as the law requires,” he said. “The Commission said that they would essentially defer to the utilities to decide what grant applications to file, and would only review them after the fact.”

Keeping Utility Companies In Check

Lapp says without input from public stakeholders, utility companies might not commit to the public’s best interest. He says that includes efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and pursue clean energy projects.

“That money should be going toward meeting those goals. The utilities won’t necessarily be inclined to meet those goals. They have private interests. They have shareholders. There’s nothing wrong with that,” said Lapp. “Climate change is definitely an urgent need. The Maryland legislature has set forth ambitious goals, and we need all Maryland state agencies to take aggressive action to pursue those goals.”

MPSC Response

In a statement to 47 ABC, the MPSC says it established a public conference to bolster their oversight. “This proceeding will provide FULL transparency and input regarding any applications by Maryland utilities for IIJA funding and requires monthly utility reports with specific details…”

The MPSC says those details include funding applied for, how the funding will be used and its connection to state policy goals, application status, and any conditions that have to be met to get the funding.

Looking Ahead

On July 27th, the OPC filed for a rehearing of the issue. Lapp says ultimately, the OPC is hoping to see the process opened up to public stakeholders, so they can give their input. “It can send signals as to how it will treat costs in the future, whether those costs will be recoverable from ratepayers, to what extent, what expectations are,” he said.

The MPSC says the motion for the rehearing is now pending before the Commission.

Categories: Local News, Maryland