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Lobbying PUC Commissioners

November 06, 1986

There is a misperception, editorially embraced by The Times (Oct. 16), regarding California Public Utility Commission proceedings and so-called ex parte contact.

The vast majority of matters before the PUC are "legislative" in nature and not "judicial." Questions involving gas and electric supply, including Bonneville and Canadian sources, interstate pipelines, coastal installations, system bypass, alternate energy purchases and pricing, diversification, trucking deregulation, bilingual services, energy conservation, customer service and consumer needs are all issues of public policy. Many of these questions come up in specific rate cases.

In rate cases the societal impact of rate design (i.e., who, among the various industries and commercial and residential groups, pays what) is the major issue and, again, involves questions of public policy. The agricultural water users want to communicate their concerns, as do the component parts of various competing industries. The Teamsters and the truckers want to alert commissioners of the severe financial effects of truck and bus deregulation.

Specifically--and this happened to me--Pacific Bell wishes to give a one-time "rebate" to the Red Cross for Mexican earthquake relief. That was achieved and a PUC order was issued last year only because of conversations between Bell, the Red Cross and myself. Yet, all of these contacts come up in reference to a matter pending before one of the 40 administrative law judges in one or more of the 2,000 plus "cases" that the PUC handles annually.

A commissioner must hear from a "constituency" to know the areas of concern and the range of proposed solutions. Unlike a judge hearing one case at a time, a commissioner cannot track all the issues in 2,000 cases before 40 hearing officers.

It is simplistic to state that all these necessary contacts are by "utility chairmen arguing for higher rates."


San Francisco

Bagley, a San Francisco attorney, is former PUC commissioner.

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