POST WRITTEN BY: Lauren Baron (’15), Pace Law School
Attorneys involved in environmental issues related to energy and water within New York State will find the resources of the Public Service Commission helpful in order to advise policy makers or clients on a course of action. The New York Public Service Commission (PSC) is the agency that regulates public utilities in the state including electricity, natural gas, steam, telecommunication, and water. One role of the PSC is to receive proposals from regulated public utilities asking permission to take some sort of action, and an administrative law judge determines what the utility is allowed to do. Some examples include utility rate making, granting permission for new electricity generation facility construction, investigations of failures to provide adequate service, or acquisitions and mergers of existing utilities. Although it has been in existence for over 100 years, the PSC’s current mission statement seeks to encourage the use of resources “in an efficient and environmentally sound manner.”
The PSC website, located at http://www.dps.ny.gov/ , includes the Commission’s regulatory decisions, notice of public rulemaking, and helpful information for consumers. The PSC itself is subject to the state’s Code of Rules and Regulations (NYCRR), and the commissioners are appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the State Senate for a term of 6 years.
Researching a specific case (if the case number is known) is straightforward and can be done after clicking the “search” tab at the top right of the webpage and typing the case number in the “Search by Case Number” box.
PSC case files contain all of the documents associated with that case. For example, a rate case often involves several interested parties who file comments, as well as a general public comment period, and a formal hearing with exhibits and testimony. When researching a specific topic within a number of cases, such as the expansion of natural gas infrastructure, there is a search box under the search tab titled “Search Document Text in Commission Case Related Documents,” which accepts Boolean connectors and will direct you to relevant cases.
In addition, there is an advanced search tab, and even a link to directions to help with the advanced search options. The ease of navigating the website is further facilitated by the “Site Map” and “A-Z Index” tabs located at the top of the page, which both have their own search boxes within the tab sections.