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SB10 SUB1 Senate Bill 10 History

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Key: Green = existing Code. Red = new code to be enacted

WEST virginia legislature

2018 regular session

Committee Substitute

for

Senate Bill 10

By Senators Sypolt, Clements, Rucker, Smith, Maroney, Cline and Gaunch

[Originating in the Committee on Government Organization; reported on January 26, 2018]

 

 

A BILL to amend and reenact §8-19-2 of the Code of West Virginia, 1931, as amended; to amend said code by adding thereto two new sections, designated §8-19-2a and §8-19-2b; and to amend and reenact §24-2-1, §24-2-2, §24-2-3, and §24-2-4b of said code, all relating generally to the jurisdiction of the Public Service Commission; excluding the setting and adjustment of rates, fees, and charges of municipal power systems from the jurisdiction of the Public Service Commission; providing for a right of appeal by customers; and clarifying the commission’s jurisdiction as modified by chapters 161 and 209, Acts of the Legislature, regular session, 2017, over Internet protocol-enabled service, voice-over Internet protocol-enabled service, storm water services by a public service district, political subdivisions providing separate or combined water and/or sewer services, and certain telephone company transactions.

Be it enacted by the Legislature of West Virginia:


CHAPTER 8. MUNICIPAL CORPORATIONS.


ARTICLE 19. MUNICIPAL AND COUNTY WATERWORKS AND ELECTRIC POWER SYSTEMS.


PART II. LIMITATIONS ON SALE OR LEASE OF

CERTAIN MUNICIPAL WATERWORKS.

§8-19-2. Contracts for purchase of electric power or energy by a municipality; definitions; requirements; payments; rates and charges.

(a) For the purposes of this section:

(1) "Contract" means an agreement entered into by a municipality with any other party for the purchase of electric output, capacity, or energy from a project as defined herein.

(2) "Any other party" means any other legal entity, including, but not limited to, another municipality, political subdivision, public authority, agency, or instrumentality of any state or the United States, a partnership, a limited partnership, a limited liability company, a corporation, an electric cooperative or an investor-owned utility existing under the laws of any state; and

(3) "Project" or "projects" means systems or facilities owned by another party and used for the generation, transmission, transformation, or supply of electric power, or any interest in them, whether an undivided interest as a tenant in common or otherwise, or any right to the output, capacity, or services thereof.

(b) In addition to the general authority to purchase electricity on a wholesale basis for resale to its customers, any municipality that owns and operates an electric power system under the provisions of this article may enter into a contract with any other party for the purchase of electricity from one or more projects located in the United States that provide that the contracting municipality is obligated to make payments required by the contract whether or not a project is completed, operable, or operating and notwithstanding the suspension, interruption, interference, reduction, or curtailment of the output of a project or the power and energy contracted for, and that the payments shall not be subject to any reduction, whether by offset or otherwise, and shall not be conditioned upon performance or nonperformance by any other party. The contract may provide that, in the event of a default by the municipality or any other party to the contract in the performance of each entity's obligations under the contract, any non-defaulting municipality or any other party to the contract shall on a pro rata basis succeed to the rights and interests of, and assume the obligations of, the defaulting party.

(c) Notwithstanding any other provisions of law, ordinance or charter provision to the contrary, a contract under subsection (b) of this section may extend for more than 50 years or 50 years from the date a project is estimated to be placed into normal continuous operation and the execution and effectiveness of the contract is not subject to any authorizations or approvals by the state or any agency, commission, instrumentality, or political subdivision thereof except as otherwise specifically required by law.

(d) A contract under subsection (b) of this section may provide that payments by the municipality are made solely from and may be secured by a pledge of and lien upon revenues derived by the municipality from ownership and operation and that payments shall constitute an operating expense of the electric power system. No obligation under the contract shall constitute a legal or equitable pledge, charge, lien, or encumbrance upon any property of the municipality or upon any of its income, receipts, or revenues, except the revenues of the municipality's electric power system. Neither the faith and credit nor the taxing power of the municipality shall be pledged for the payment of any obligation under the contract.

(e) A municipality contracting under the provisions of subsection (b) of this section is obligated to fix, charge and collect rents, rates, fees, and charges for electric power and energy and other services it sells, furnishes, or supplies through its electric power system in an amount sufficient to provide revenues adequate to meet its obligations under the contract and to pay any and all other amounts payable from or constituting a charge and lien upon the revenues, including the amounts necessary to pay the principal and interest on any municipal bonds issued related to its electric power system: Provided, That any change in the rates and charges of the municipality to the customers of the electric power system under the provisions of this section are subject to the provisions and requirements of section four-b, article two. chapter twenty-four §8-19-2a of this code and the obligations of the municipality under the contract are costs of providing electric service within the meaning of that section.

§8-19-2a.  Procedure for changing rates of municipal electric power systems; legislative findings.


All rates, fees, and charges set by municipal electric power systems shall be just, reasonable, applied without unjust discrimination between or preference for any customer or class of customer, and based primarily on the costs of providing these services. All rates and charges shall be based upon the measured or reasonably estimated cost of service and the equitable sharing of those costs between customers based upon the cost of providing the service received by the customer, including a reasonable slant-in-service depreciation expense. The rates and charges shall be adopted by the power system's governing board by municipal ordinance to be effective not sooner than 45 days after adoption. The 45 day waiting period may be waived by public vote of the governing body if that body finds and declares the public utility that is a political subdivision of the state to be in financial distress, such that the 45 day waiting period would be detrimental to the ability of the utility to deliver continued and compliant public services:  Provided, That notice of intent to effect a rate change shall be  specified on the monthly billing statement of the customers of the utility for the month next preceding the month in which the rate change is to become effective, and the governing body shall give its customers other reasonable notices as will allow filing of timely objections to the proposed rate change and full participation in municipal rate legislation through the provision of a public forum in which customers may comment upon the proposed rate change prior to an enactment vote. Notwithstanding the exclusion of municipal power systems' rates, fees, charges, and ratemaking process from the jurisdiction of the Public Service Commission, municipal power systems shall submit information regarding their rates, fees, and charges to the commission as set forth in §24-2-9 of this code.


§8-19-2b. Right of appeal by customers.

Customers may appeal a rate increase to the circuit court of the county in which the municipality is located on the grounds that the rate ordinance or its passage does not comply with the provisions of this article by filing a petition, signed by at least 750 customers or 25 percent of the customers served by the municipal electric utility, whichever is fewer.  Any petition challenging the ordinance must be filed within 30 days following the adoption of the rate ordinance.

CHAPTER 24. PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION.


ARTICLE 2. POWERS AND DUTIES OF PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION.


§24-2-1. Jurisdiction of commission; waiver of jurisdiction.

(a) The jurisdiction of the commission extends to all public utilities in this state and includes any utility engaged in any of the following public services:

Common carriage of passengers or goods, whether by air, railroad, street railroad, motor or otherwise, by express or otherwise, by land, water, or air, whether wholly or partly by land, water or air; transportation of oil, gas or water by pipeline; transportation of coal and its derivatives and all mixtures and combinations thereof with other substances by pipeline; sleeping car or parlor car services; transmission of messages by telephone, telegraph, or radio; generation and transmission of electrical energy by hydroelectric or other utilities for service to the public, whether directly or through a distributing utility; supplying water, gas, or electricity by municipalities or others; sewer systems servicing 25 or more persons or firms other than the owner of the sewer systems: Provided, That if a public utility other than a political subdivision intends to provide sewer service by an innovative, alternative method, as defined by the federal Environmental Protection Agency, the innovative, alternative method is a public utility function and subject to the jurisdiction of the Public Service Commission regardless of the number of customers served by the innovative, alternative method; any public service district created under the provisions of §16-13A-1 et seq. of this code, except that the Public Service Commission has no jurisdiction over the provision of storm water services by a public service district; toll bridges, wharves, ferries; solid waste facilities; and any other public service: Provided, however, That natural gas producers who provide natural gas service to not more than 25 residential customers are exempt from the jurisdiction of the commission with regard to the provisions of such residential service: Provided further, That upon request of any of the customers of such natural gas producers, the commission may, upon good cause being shown, exercise authority the commission considers appropriate over the operation, rates, and charges of the producer and for the time the commission  considers to be proper.

(b) The jurisdiction of the commission over political subdivisions of this state providing separate or combined water and/or sewer services and having at least 4,500 customers and annual combined gross revenues of $3 million or more that are political subdivisions of the state is limited to:

(1) General supervision of public utilities, as granted and described in §24-2-5 of this code;

(2) Regulation of measurements, practices, acts, or services, as granted and described in §24-2-7 of this code;

(3) Regulation of a system of accounts to be kept by a public utility that is a political subdivision of the state, as granted and described in §24-2-8 of this code;

(4) Submission of information to the commission regarding rates, tolls, charges, or practices, as granted and described in §24-2-9 of this code;

(5) Authority to subpoena witnesses, take testimony, and administer oaths to any witness in any proceeding before or conducted by the commission, as granted and described in §24-2-10 of this code; and

(6) Investigation and resolution of disputes between a political subdivision of the state providing wholesale water and/or wastewater treatment or other services, whether by contract or through a tariff, and its customer or customers, including, but not limited to, rates, fees and charges, service areas, and contested utility combinations: Provided, That any request for an investigation related to such a dispute that is based on the act or omission of the political subdivision shall be filed within 30 days of the act or omission of the political subdivision and the commission shall resolve the dispute within 120 days of filing. The 120 day period for resolution of the dispute may be tolled by the commission until the necessary information showing the basis of the rates, fees and charges or other information as the commission considers necessary is filed: Provided however, That the disputed rates, fees, and charges so fixed by the political subdivision providing separate or combined water and/or sewer services shall remain in full force and effect until set aside, altered, or amended by the commission in an order to be followed in the future.

(7) Customers of water and sewer utilities operated by a political subdivision of the state may bring formal or informal complaints regarding the commission's exercise of the powers enumerated in this section, and the commission shall resolve these complaints.

(8) In the event that a political subdivision has a deficiency in either its bond revenue or bond reserve accounts, or is otherwise in breach of a bond covenant, any bond holder may petition the Public Service Commission for such redress as will bring the accounts to current status or otherwise resolve the breached covenant, and the commission shall have jurisdiction to fully resolve the alleged deficiency or breach.

(c) The commission may, upon application, waive its jurisdiction and allow a utility operating in an adjoining state to provide service in West Virginia when:

(1) An area of West Virginia cannot be practicably and economically served by a utility licensed to operate within the State of West Virginia;

(2) The area can be provided with utility service by a utility which operates in a state adjoining West Virginia;

(3) The utility operating in the adjoining state is regulated by a regulatory agency or commission of the adjoining state; and

(4) The number of customers to be served is not substantial. The rates the out-of-state utility charges West Virginia customers shall be the same as the rate the utility is duly authorized to charge in the adjoining jurisdiction. The commission, in the case of any such utility, may revoke its waiver of jurisdiction for good cause.

(d) Any other provisions of this chapter to the contrary notwithstanding:

(1) An owner or operator of an electric generating facility located or to be located in this state that has been designated as an exempt wholesale generator under applicable federal law, or shall be so designated prior to commercial operation of the facility, and for which the facility, the owner, or operator holds a certificate of public convenience and necessity issued by the commission on or before July 1, 2003, shall be subject to §24-2-11c (e), (f), (g), (h), (i) and (j), of this code as if the certificate of public convenience and necessity for such facility were a siting certificate issued under that section and are not otherwise subject to the jurisdiction of the commission or to the provisions of this chapter with respect to the facility except for the making or constructing of a material modification thereof as provided in subdivision (5) of this subsection.

(2) Any person, corporation, or other entity that intends to construct or construct and operate an electric generating facility to be located in this state that has been designated as an exempt wholesale generator under applicable federal law, or will be so designated prior to commercial operation of the facility, and for which facility the owner or operator does not hold a certificate of public convenience and necessity issued by the commission on or before July 1, 2003, shall, prior to commencement of construction of the facility, obtain a siting certificate from the commission pursuant to the provisions of §24-2-11c of this code in lieu of a certificate of public convenience and necessity pursuant to the provisions of §24-2-11 of this code. An owner or operator of an electric generating facility as is described in this subdivision for which a siting certificate has been issued by the commission shall be subject to §24-2-11c (e), (f), (g), (h), (i) and (j), of this code, and is not otherwise subject to the jurisdiction of the commission or to the provisions of this chapter with respect to the facility except for the making or constructing of a material modification thereof as provided in subdivision (5) of this subsection.

(3) An owner or operator of an electric generating facility located in this state that had not been designated as an exempt wholesale generator under applicable federal law prior to commercial operation of the facility that generates electric energy solely for sale at retail outside this state or solely for sale at wholesale in accordance with any applicable federal law that preempts state law or solely for both such sales at retail and such sales at wholesale and that had been constructed and had engaged in commercial operation on or before July 1, 2003, is not subject to the jurisdiction of the commission or to the provisions of this chapter with respect to such facility, regardless of whether the facility subsequent to its construction has been or will be designated as an exempt wholesale generator under applicable federal law: Provided, That the owner or operator is subject to subdivision (5) of this subsection if a material modification of the facility is made or constructed.

(4) Any person, corporation, or other entity that intends to construct or construct and operate an electric generating facility to be located in this state that has not been or will not be designated as an exempt wholesale generator under applicable federal law prior to commercial operation of the facility that will generate electric energy solely for sale at retail outside this state or solely for sale at wholesale in accordance with any applicable federal law that preempts state law or solely for both such sales at retail and such sales at wholesale and that had not been constructed and had not been engaged in commercial operation on or before July 1, 2003, shall, prior to commencement of construction of the facility, obtain a siting certificate from the commission pursuant to the provisions of §24-2-11c of this code in lieu of a certificate of public convenience and necessity pursuant to the provisions of §24-2-11 of this code. An owner or operator of an electric generating facility as is described in this subdivision for which a siting certificate has been issued by the commission is subject to §24-2-11c (e), (f), (g), (h), (i) and (j), of this code, and is not otherwise subject to the jurisdiction of the commission or to the provisions of this chapter with respect to the facility except for the making or constructing of a material modification thereof as provided in subdivision (5) of this subsection.

(5) An owner or operator of an electric generating facility described in this subsection shall, before making or constructing a material modification of the facility that is not within the terms of any certificate of public convenience and necessity or siting certificate previously issued for the facility, or an earlier material modification thereof, obtain a siting certificate for the modification from the commission pursuant to the provisions of §24-2-11c of this code in lieu of a certificate of public convenience and necessity for the modification pursuant to the provisions of §24-2-11 of this code and, except for the provisions of §24-2-11c of this code, is not otherwise subject to the jurisdiction of the commission or to the provisions of this chapter with respect to such modification.

(6) The commission shall consider an application for a certificate of public convenience and necessity filed pursuant to §24-2-11 of this code to construct an electric generating facility described in this subsection or to make or construct a material modification of such electric generating facility as an application for a siting certificate pursuant to §24-2-11c of this code if the application for the certificate of public convenience and necessity was filed with the commission prior to July 1, 2003, and if the commission has not issued a final order thereon as of that date.

(7) The limitations on the jurisdiction of the commission over, and on the applicability of the provisions of this chapter to, the owner or operator of an electric generating facility as imposed by and described in this subsection, do not affect or limit the commission's jurisdiction over contracts or arrangements between the owner or operator of the facility and any affiliated public utility subject to the provisions of this chapter.

(e) The commission does not have jurisdiction of Internet protocol-enabled service or voice-over Internet protocol-enabled service.  As used in this subsection:

(1) “Internet protocol-enabled service” means any service, capability, functionality, or application provided using Internet protocol, or any successor protocol, that enables an end user to send or receive a communication in Internet protocol format, or any successor format, regardless of whether the communication is voice, data, or video.

(2) “Voice-over Internet protocol service” means any service that:

(i) Enables real-time two-way voice communications that originate or terminate from the user’s location using Internet protocol or a successor protocol; and

(ii) Uses a broadband connection from the user’s location.

(3) The term “voice-over Internet protocol service” includes any service that permits users to receive calls that originate on the public-switched telephone network and to terminate calls on the public-switched telephone network.

(f) Notwithstanding any other provisions of this article, the commission does not have jurisdiction to review or approve any transaction involving a telephone company otherwise subject to §24-2-12 and §24-2-12a of this code if all entities involved in the transaction are under common ownership.

(g) The Legislature finds that the rates, fees, charges, and ratemaking of municipal power systems are most fairly and effectively regulated by the local governing body. Therefore, notwithstanding any other provisions of this article, the commission shall not have jurisdiction over the setting or adjustment of rates, fees, and charges of municipal power systems. Further, the jurisdiction of the Public Service Commission over municipal power systems is limited to that granted specifically in this code.


§24-2-2. General power of commission to regulate public utilities.

(a) The commission is hereby given power to may investigate all rates, methods and practices of public utilities subject to the provisions of this chapter; to require them to conform to the laws of this state and to all rules, regulations and orders of the commission not contrary to law; and to require copies of all reports, rates, classifications, schedules and timetables in effect and used by the public utility or other person to be filed with the commission, and all other information desired by the commission relating to the investigation and requirements, including inventories of all property in such the form and detail as the commission may prescribe prescribes. The commission may compel obedience to its lawful orders by mandamus or injunction or other proper proceedings in the name of the state in any circuit court having jurisdiction of the parties or of the subject matter, or the Supreme Court of Appeals directly, and the proceedings shall have priority over all pending cases. The commission may change any intrastate rate, charge or toll which is unjust or unreasonable or any interstate charge with respect to matters of a purely local nature which have not been regulated by or pursuant to an act of Congress and may prescribe a rate, charge or toll that is just and reasonable, and change or prohibit any practice, device or method of service in order to prevent undue discrimination or favoritism between persons and between localities and between commodities for a like and contemporaneous service. But in no case shall may the rate, toll or charge be more than the service is reasonably worth, considering the cost of the service. Every order entered by the commission shall continue in force until the expiration of the time, if any, named by the commission in the order, or until revoked or modified by the commission, unless the order is suspended, modified or revoked by order or decree of a court of competent jurisdiction: Provided, That in the case of utilities used by emergency shelter providers, the commission shall prescribe such rates, charges or tolls that are the lowest available. "Emergency shelter provider" means any nonprofit entity which provides temporary emergency housing and services to the homeless or to victims of domestic violence or other abuse.

(b) Notwithstanding any other provision of this code to the contrary, rates are not discriminatory if, when considering the debt costs associated with a future water or sewer project which would not benefit existing customers, the commission establishes rates which ensure that the future customers to be served by the new project are solely responsible for the debt costs associated with the project.

(c) Notwithstanding any other provision of this code to the contrary, the jurisdiction of the commission over water and/or sewer utilities that are political subdivisions of the state providing a separate or combined services and having at least 4,500 customers and annual combined gross revenues of $3 million or more shall be is limited to those powers enumerated in §24-2-1(b) of this code.

(d) Notwithstanding any other provision of this code to the contrary, the jurisdiction of the commission does not extend over the setting or adjustment of rates, fees, and charges of municipal power systems. The rates, fees, charges and ratemaking process of municipal power systems is governed by the provisions of §8-19-2a of this code.

§24-2-3. General power of commission with respect to rates.


(a) The commission shall have power to may enforce, originate, establish, change and promulgate tariffs, rates, joint rates, tolls and schedules for all public utilities except for municipal power systems and water and/or sewer utilities that are political subdivisions of this state providing a separate or combined services and having at least four thousand five hundred customers and annual combined gross revenues of $3 million or more: Provided, That the commission may exercise such rate authority over municipally owned electric or natural gas utilities or a municipally owned water and/or sewer utility having less than 4,500 customers or annual combined gross revenues of less than $3 million, only under the circumstances and limitations set forth in §24-2-4b of this code, and subject to the provisions set forth in subsection (b) of this section. And whenever the commission, shall after hearing, find finds any existing rates, tolls, tariffs, joint rates or schedules enacted or maintained by a utility regulated under the provisions of this section to be unjust, unreasonable, insufficient or unjustly discriminatory or otherwise in violation of any of the provisions of this chapter, the commission shall, by an order, fix reasonable rates, joint rates, tariffs, tolls or schedules to be followed in the future in lieu of those found to be unjust, unreasonable, insufficient or unjustly discriminatory or otherwise in violation of any provisions of law, and the said commission, in fixing the rate of any railroad company, may fix a fair, reasonable and just rate to be charged on any branch line thereof, independent of the rate charged on the main line of such the railroad.

(b) Any complaint filed with the commission by a resale or wholesale customer of a municipally owned water and/or sewer utility having less than 4,500 customers or annual combined gross revenue of less than $3 million concerning rates, fees or charges applicable to such resale or wholesale customer, shall be filed within 30 days of the enactment by the governing body of the political subdivision of an ordinance changing rates, fees or charges for such service. The commission shall resolve said complaint within 120 days of filing. The 120 day period for resolution of the complaint may be tolled by the commission until the necessary information showing the basis of the rates, fees, charges and other information as the commission considers necessary is filed: Provided, That rates, fees, and charges so fixed by the political subdivision providing separate or combined water and/or sewer services shall remain in full force and effect until set aside, altered or amended by the commission in an order to be followed in the future: Provided, however, That the commission shall have no authority to order refunds for amounts collected during the pendency of the complaint proceeding unless the rates, fees, or charges so enacted by the governing body were enacted subject to refund under the provisions of §24-2-4b (d)(2) or (g) of this code.

(c) In determining just and reasonable rates, the commission may audit and investigate management practices and policies, or have performed an audit and investigation of such practices and policies, in order to determine whether the utility is operating with efficiency and is utilizing sound management practices. The commission shall adopt rules and regulations setting forth the scope, frequency and application of such audits and investigations to the various utilities subject to its jurisdiction. The commission may include the cost of conducting the management audit in the cost of service of the utility.

(d) In determining just and reasonable rates, the commission shall investigate and review transactions between utilities and affiliates. The commission shall limit the total return of the utility to a level which, when considered with the level of profit or return the affiliate earns on transactions with the utility, is just and reasonable.

§24-2-4b. Procedures for changing rates of electric and natural gas cooperatives, local exchange services of telephone cooperatives and municipally operated public utilities.


(a) The rates and charges of electric cooperatives, natural gas cooperatives and municipal water and/or sewer utilities that are political subdivisions of the state having less than 4,500 customers or annual combined gross revenues of less than $3 million,  except for municipally operated commercial solid waste facilities as defined in §22-15-2 of this code, and the rates and charges for local exchange services provided by telephone cooperatives are not subject to the rate approval provisions of §24-2-4 or §24-2-4a of this code, but are subject to the limited rate provisions of this section.

(b) All rates and charges set by electric cooperatives, natural gas cooperatives and municipally operated public utilities that are political subdivisions of the state providing water, sewer, electric and/or natural gas services that are subject to the provisions of this section and all rates and charges for local exchange services set by telephone cooperatives shall be just, reasonable, applied without unjust discrimination between or preference for any customer or class of customer and based primarily on the costs of providing these services. All rates and charges shall be based upon the measured or reasonably estimated cost of service and the equitable sharing of those costs between customers based upon the cost of providing the service received by the customer, including a reasonable plant-in-service depreciation expense. The rates and charges shall be adopted by the electric, natural gas, telephone cooperative or political subdivision’s governing board or body and, in the case of the municipally operated public utility, by municipal ordinance to be effective not sooner than 45 days after adoption. The 45 day waiting period may be waived by public vote of the governing body if that body finds and declares the public utility that is a political subdivision of the state to be in financial distress such that the 45 day waiting period would be detrimental to the ability of the utility to deliver continued and compliant public services: Provided, That notice of intent to effect a rate change shall be specified on the monthly billing statement of the customers of the utility for the month next preceding the month in which the rate change is to become effective and the utility governing body shall give its customers and, in the case of a cooperative, its customers, members and stockholders, other reasonable notices as will allow filing of timely objections to the proposed rate change and full participation in municipal rate legislation through the provision of a public forum in which customers may comment upon the proposed rate change prior to an enactment vote. The rates and charges or ordinance shall be filed with the commission, together with any information showing the basis of the rates and charges and other information as the commission considers necessary. Any change in the rates and charges with updated information shall be filed with the commission. If a petition, as set out in subdivision (1), (2) or (3), subsection (c) of this section, is received and the electric cooperative, natural gas cooperative or telephone cooperative or municipality has failed to file with the commission the rates and charges with information showing the basis of rates and charges and other information as the commission considers necessary, the suspension period limitation of 120 days and the 100 day period limitation for issuance of an order by a hearing examiner, as contained in subsections (d) and (e) of this section, is tolled until the necessary information is filed. The electric cooperative, natural gas cooperative, telephone cooperative or municipality shall set the date when any new rate or charge is to go into effect.

(c) The commission shall review and approve or modify the rates and charges of electric cooperatives, natural gas cooperatives, telephone cooperatives, or municipal electric or natural gas utilities and municipally owned water and/or sewer utilities that are political subdivisions of the state and having less than 4,500 customers or annual combined revenues of less than $3 million upon the filing of a petition within 30 days of the adoption of the ordinance or resolution changing the rates or charges by:

(1) Any customer aggrieved by the changed rates or charges who presents to the commission a petition signed by not less than 25 percent of the customers served by the municipally operated electric or natural gas public utility or municipally owned water and/or sewer utility or 25 percent of the membership of the electric, natural gas or telephone cooperative residing within the state;

(2) Any customer who is served by a municipally owned electric or natural gas public utility and who resides outside the corporate limits and who is affected by the change in the rates or charges and who presents to the commission a petition alleging discrimination between customers within and without the municipal boundaries. The petition shall be accompanied by evidence of discrimination; or

(3) Any customer or group of customers of the municipally owned electric or natural gas public utility who is affected by the change in rates who reside within the municipal boundaries and who present a petition to the commission alleging discrimination between a customer or group of customers and other customers of the municipal utility. The petition shall be accompanied by evidence of discrimination.

(d) (1) The filing of a petition with the commission signed by not less than 25 percent of the customers served by the municipally owned electric or natural gas public utility or a municipally owned water and/or sewer utility having less than 4,500 customers or annual combined gross revenues of less than $3 million or twenty-five percent of the membership of the electric, natural gas or telephone cooperative residing within the state under subsection (c) of this section shall suspend the adoption of the rate change contained in the ordinance or resolution for a period of one hundred twenty days from the date the rates or charges would otherwise go into effect or until an order is issued as provided herein.

(2) Upon sufficient showing of discrimination by customers outside the municipal boundaries or a customer or a group of customers within the municipal boundaries under a petition filed under subdivision (2) or (3), subsection (c) of this section, the commission shall suspend the adoption of the rate change contained in the ordinance for a period of 120 days from the date the rates or charges would otherwise go into effect or until an order is issued as provided herein. A municipal rate ordinance enacted pursuant to the provisions of this section and municipal charter or state code that establishes or proposes a rate increase that results in an increase of less than 25 percent of the gross revenue of the utility shall be presumed valid and rates shall be allowed to go into effect, subject to refund, upon the date stated in that ordinance. Any refund determined to be due and owing as a result of any difference between any final rates approved by the commission and the rates placed into effect subject to refund shall be refunded as a credit against each customer’s account for a period of up to six months after entry of the commission’s final order. Any remaining balance which is not fully credited by credit within six months after entry of the commission’s final order shall be directly refunded to the customer by check. In the case of rates established or proposed that increase by more than 25 percent of the gross revenue of the municipally operated public utility, the utility may apply for, and the commission may grant, a waiver of the suspension period and allow rates to be effective upon enactment.

(e) The commission shall forthwith appoint a hearing examiner from its staff to review the grievances raised by the petitioners. The hearing examiner shall conduct a public hearing and shall, within 100 days from the date the rates or charges would otherwise go into effect, unless otherwise tolled as provided in subsection (b) of this section, issue an order approving, disapproving or modifying, in whole or in part, the rates or charges imposed by the electric, natural gas or telephone cooperative or by the municipally operated public utility pursuant to this section.

(f) Upon receipt of a petition for review of the rates under the provisions of subsection (c) of this section, the commission may exercise the power granted to it under the provisions of §24-2-3 of this code, consistent with the applicable rate provisions of §8-10-2, §8-19-4 and §16-13-16 of this code. The commission may determine the method by which the rates are reviewed and may grant and conduct a de novo hearing on the matter if the customer, electric, natural gas or telephone cooperative or municipality requests a hearing.

(g) The commission may, upon petition by an electric, natural gas or telephone cooperative or municipal electric or natural gas public utility or a municipally owned water and/or sewer utility having less than 4,500 customers or annual combined gross revenues of less than $3 million, allow an interim or emergency rate to take effect, subject to refund or future modification, if it is determined that the interim or emergency rate is necessary to protect the municipality from financial hardship attributable to the purchase of the utility commodity sold, or the commission determines that a temporary or interim rate increase is necessary for the utility to avoid financial distress. In such cases, the commission shall waive the 45 day waiting period provided for in subsection (b) of this section and the 120 day suspension period provided for in subsection (d) of this section.

(h) The commission shall, upon written request of the governing body of a political subdivision, provide technical assistance to the governing body in its deliberations regarding a proposed rate increase.

(i) Notwithstanding any other provision, the commission has no authority or responsibility with regard to the regulation of rates, income, services, or contracts by municipally operated public utilities for services which are transmitted and sold outside of the State of West Virginia.

(j) Notwithstanding any other provision of this code to the contrary, the jurisdiction of the commission over water and/or sewer utilities that are political subdivisions of the state and having at least 4,500 customers and annual gross combined revenues of $3 million or more shall be limited to those powers enumerated in §24-2-1(b) of this code.

(k) Notwithstanding any other provision of this code to the contrary, the jurisdiction of the commission does not extend over the setting and adjustment of the rates, fees, and charges of municipal power systems. The rates, fees, charges and ratemaking process of municipal power systems shall be governed by the provisions of §8-19-2a of this code.

 

NOTE: The purpose of this bill is to allow more local review and control over the setting of rates, fees and charges for, municipal electrical power systems. The bill provides for a right of appeal by customers. It also clarifies the Public Service Commission’s jurisdiction as modified by chapters one hundred sixty-one and two hundred nine, Acts of the Legislature, Regular Session, 2017 (HB3096 and SB180).

Strike-throughs indicate language that would be stricken from a heading or the present law and underscoring indicates new language that would be added.

§24-2-1 has been rewritten; therefore, it has been completely underscored.

 

 

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