Public Service Commission Duties and Responsibilities

November 5, 2010

The decisions made and policy set by the Georgia Public Service Commission can have significant impact on your city and your citizens. In 1879, the Georgia General Assembly established the Railroad Commission of Georgia for the purpose of regulating railroad passenger and freight rates, services and operations. As Georgia’s population grew and industry expanded, it was necessary for the commission to grow as well. The legislature, therefore, conferred upon the commission additional regulatory responsibilities with periods of regulatory expansion and deregulation. In 1922, the legislature changed the name of the Railroad Commission to the Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC) to reflect the increasing variety of services and utilities included under the commission’s jurisdiction.

What is the composition of the PSC?
Today, five elected commissioners, supported by approximately 90 staff members, make decisions that affect the lives of every Georgian each time a telephone is picked up, a light is turned on and a gas burner is used. The five commissioners are Robert B. Baker, Jr., Chuck Eaton, H. Doug Everett, Lauren “Bubba” McDonald and Stan Wise. The members of the PSC are elected statewide and serve staggered six-year terms. Although the commissioners are elected statewide, each commissioner is elected from a region of the state and the commissioner must reside in that region. On an annual basis, the chairman of the commission is selected on a rotating basis.

What is the mission of the PSC?
The mission of the Georgia Public Service Commission is to exercise its authority and influence to ensure that consumers receive safe, reliable and reasonably priced telecommunications, transportation, electric and natural gas services from financially viable and technically competent companies.

What is the Commission's role and responsibility?
The Georgia Public Service Commission has exclusive power to decide fair and reasonable rates for services provided under its jurisdiction. It must balance Georgia citizens’ need for reliable services and reasonable rates with the need for utilities to earn a reasonable return on investment. All matters scheduled for public hearing are heard by the commissioners or in special cases, by an appointed hearing officer in open session.

In regulating rates, the commission does not guarantee profits to service providers. It is the company’s responsibility to make prudent, sound business decisions to produce earnings. When regulated companies bring a rate request before the PSC, it may be taken up first by one of the commission’s three standing committees on which the commissioners serve: Telecommunications, Energy or Administrative Affairs.

Assisting the commissioners are experts on utility operations. These experts may provide testimony and make recommendations at rate, arbitration or other proceedings. To protect the public interest and to fulfill its responsibilities, the commission may:
  • Conduct investigations, hearings and gather evidence
  • Inspect properties, books and papers of regulated companies
  • Determine costs
  • Make and enforce rules
  • Issue orders giving effect to commission decisions
  • Institute judicial proceedings to enforce orders, rules and regulations
Administrative sessions of the Georgia Public Service Commission are held the first and third Tuesday of each month in hearing room number 110 at 244 Washington St. in Atlanta. Proceedings are open to the public.

What is the Commission’s budget?
The Commission’s 2011 fiscal year budget which began on July 1, 2010 is $9,110,146 which includes $8,439,986 in state funds and $600,000 in federal funds.

What is regulated by the PSC?
 
Electric
  • Investor-owned electric power companies (1)
  • Electric membership corporations (42) (Territory and financing only)
  • Municipally-owned electric power companies (52) (Territory only)
Georgia Power Company (GPC), an investor-owned electric utility, is fully regulated by the commission. Currently GPC serves approximately 2.35 million customers in 155 of Georgia’s 159 counties. The commission has limited regulatory authority over the 42 electric membership corporations (EMCs) and 52 municipally-owned electric systems in the state. Absent federal action, the electric industry in Georgia will remain traditionally regulated in its present form.

Some retail competition has been present in Georgia since 1973 with the passage of the Georgia Territorial Electric Service Act. This Act enables customers with manufacturing or commercial loads of 900 kW or greater a one time choice in their electric supplier. It also provides eligible customers the opportunity to transfer from one electric supplier to another provided all parties agree. The commission resolves territorial disputes and customer complaints involving customer choice and approves requests for transfer of retail electric service.

Natural Gas
  • Investor-owned natural gas companies (2)
  • Liquefied Natural Gas Plants (5) (Safety only)
  • Master meter operators (131) (Safety only)
  • Municipally-owned natural gas companies (84) (Safety and territory only)
Depending upon their location, natural gas customers in Georgia can purchase gas from one of three types of providers-an investor-owned local distribution company, a natural gas marketer or a municipal gas system.
  • Atmos Energy Corporation, Georgia’s only local distribution company, is fully regulated by the Public Service Commission.
  • Atlanta Gas Light Company became a pipes-only gas company in 1998, when it elected to open its territory to competition pursuant to the Natural Gas Competition and Deregulation Act of 1997. Ten certified natural gas marketers now serve customers on AGLC’s system. The prices charged by marketers are market-based, but rates for AGLC’s distribution service are still regulated by the PSC.
  • In Georgia, 84 municipal gas systems provide natural gas to their residents. Prices for municipal gas service are not subject to PSC regulation.
Telecommunications
  • Alternate operator service providers (160)
  • Automatic dialing and announcement devices (115)
  • Pay Phone Service Providers (603)
  • Institutional telephone service providers (38)
  • Interexchange carriers (78)
  • Resellers (600)
  • Telephone companies (34)
  • Telephone service observing equipment users (338)
  • Competitive Local Exchange Carriers (221)
Transportation
 
Effective July 1, 2005, The Georgia Public Service Commission assumed responsibility for certification and enforcement of regulations for household goods movers, luxury limousine carriers, buses, motor carriers and non-consensual towing.

Under current Georgia law, all limousine companies are required to be registered and have proof of insurance on file with the commission. Chauffeurs who drive for licensed carriers are required to have permits which the Department of Driver’s Services issues only after the successful completion of a criminal history investigation.

How can I contact the PSC Commissioners?

More information about the five commissioners and e-mail addresses for each commissioner can be found at this address, http://www.psc.state.ga.us/pscinfo/bios.asp. The Public Service Commission is located at 244 Washington Street, SW Atlanta GA, 30334-9052. The Commission can be reached by phone at 800-282-5813 or 404-656-4501.