2021 - 2022 LEGISLATURE
January 28, 2021 - Introduced by Senator Bradley, cosponsored by Representative
Kuglitsch, by request of Public Service Commission. Referred to Committee
on Utilities, Technology and Telecommunications.
1An Act to repeal
196.209; to amend
30.025 (4) (c), 196.07 (1), 196.191 (3) (a) 2., 2
196.203 (4m) (a), 196.31 (1) (intro.), 196.49 (5g) (ar) 1m. d., 196.491 (2) (f), 3
196.491 (3) (a) 1., 196.491 (3) (a) 2m. a., 196.499 (1) (b), 196.499 (1) (f) and 196.85 4
(3); to repeal and recreate
196.31 (2m); and to create
196.026 (7m), 196.20 5
(9) and 196.315 of the statutes; relating to: making various changes to statutes
6administered by the Public Service Commission and requiring investor-owned
7energy utilities to fund a consumer advocate.
Analysis by the Legislative Reference Bureau
This bill provides for funding for a consumer advocate and makes various
changes to statutes administered by the Public Service Commission.
Consumer advocate funding. The bill requires the PSC to require
investor-owned electric and natural gas public utilities (energy utilities) to provide
funding to a “consumer advocate,” which is defined as the Citizens Utility Board that
was created by the legislature in 1979 and subsequently dissolved and reorganized
as a nonstock, nonprofit corporation. All actions of the consumer advocate that are
funded under the bill must be directed toward a duty to represent and protect the
interests of residential, small commercial, and small industrial energy customers of
the state. The bill requires the consumer advocate to annually file with the PSC a
budget, which the PSC must approve if it is consistent with the foregoing duty and
covers reasonable annual costs, including salaries, benefits, overhead expenses, an
operating reserve, and any other costs directly or indirectly related to representing
and protecting the interests of the foregoing customers. However, the bill allows the
PSC to approve the budget with conditions and modifications that the PSC
determines are necessary. If the PSC fails to take final action within 60 days after
a budget is filed, the PSC is considered to have approved the budget.
The bill limits the total annual funding for the consumer advocate to a
maximum of $900,000. Each energy utility's share of that total is based on an
individual energy utility's proportionate share of residential, small commercial, and
small industrial customer meters in the state, which each energy utility must
annually report to the PSC. The bill requires the PSC to ensure in rate-making
orders that energy utilities recover the funding from their customers. The PSC must
apply escrow accounting treatment to energy utility expenditures for the funding.
The bill prohibits the consumer advocate from using the funding for lobbying
or defraying the cost of participating in proceedings involving the rates or practices
of municipal utilities and no other public utilities. The bill also limits the amount
that the PSC may compensate the consumer advocate for participating in PSC
proceedings. Under current law, if certain requirements are satisfied, the PSC is
allowed to compensate participants in proceedings who are not public utilities.
Under this bill, the PSC may grant no more than $100,000 annually in such
compensation to the consumer advocate.
Energy-related changes. The bill does all of the following:
1. Allows an applicant for a PSC-issued certificate that is required for a project
involving a high-voltage transmission line to agree with the Department of Natural
Resources to extend the deadline for DNR to take action on certain water-related
permit applications that are also required for the project. Current law allows a
similar agreement for an applicant for a different PSC-issued certificate that is
required to construct a high-voltage transmission line.
2. Allows the PSC to approve without a hearing certain public utility fuel cost
plans that are contained in settlement agreements.
3. Increases a cost threshold for exempting certain projects of natural gas
utilities from the requirement to obtain a PSC-issued certificate. Under current law,
the exemption applies if the project's estimated gross cost is not more than a specified
dollar amount or 4 percent of the natural gas utility's operating revenues in the prior
year, whichever is less. Under current law, the dollar amount is $2,500,000. The bill
increases the dollar amount to $5,000,000.
4. Allows a person who proposes to construct a large electric generating facility
and an associated high-voltage transmission line to submit a single application that
covers the two PSC-issued certificates that are required, instead of submitting one
application for the certificate for the facility and a separate application for the
certificate for the line as required under current law. If a person submits a single
application, the PSC must conduct a single proceeding for issuing the two
5. Eliminates a requirement for the PSC to prepare an environmental
assessment on its biennial strategic energy assessment.
Other changes. The bill also does the following:
1. Requires the PSC to ensure in rate-making orders that a public utility
recovers from its ratepayers reasonable amounts spent on pension and other
post-employment benefit costs. Also, if requested by a public utility, the PSC must
prescribe escrow accounting treatment for that recovery.
2. Allows the PSC to collect past due assessments that are owed by persons
subject to the PSC's jurisdiction. Current law specifies a procedure for collection that
involves the Department of Administration. The bill eliminates that procedure and
allows the PSC to collect the amount due in accordance with procedures the PSC
3. Requires public utilities to file annual balance sheets with the PSC by May
1, instead of April 1, as required under current law.
4. Eliminates a requirement for the PSC to promulgate rules establishing
privacy guidelines for telecommunications services.
5. Eliminates a requirement for telecommunications providers to address
privacy considerations before introducing new telecommunications service.
For further information see the state and local fiscal estimate, which will be
printed as an appendix to this bill.
The people of the state of Wisconsin, represented in senate and assembly, do
enact as follows:
30.025 (4) (c) of the statutes is amended to read:
(c) Notwithstanding the deadline in par. (b), upon agreement 3
between the department and a person who submits an application under s. 196.49
196.491 (3) for a permit to construct a high-voltage transmission line, the 5
department shall grant or deny the application within 45 days after the department 6
receives all of the information necessary for it to carry out its obligations under this 7
subsection, as determined by the department.
196.026 (7m) of the statutes is created to read:
If a public utility's fuel cost plan is contained in a settlement 10
agreement, the commission may approve the fuel cost plan for the first year of a 11
2-year settlement agreement without holding a hearing.
196.07 (1) of the statutes is amended to read:
Each public utility shall close its accounts annually on December 31 2
and promptly prepare a balance sheet of that date. On or before the following April 3May
1 every public utility shall file with the commission the balance sheet together
4with; counts of the numbers of meters serving residential, small commercial, and
5small industrial customers as of December 31; and
any other information the 6
commission prescribes, verified by an officer of the public utility. The commission, 7
for good cause shown, may extend the time for filing the balance sheet and prescribed 8
196.191 (3) (a) 2. of the statutes is amended to read:
(a) 2. The commission may modify the new tariff after an 11
opportunity for a hearing only to the extent that the tariff violates s. 196.209, 12
or 196.219 and only to the extent that s. 196.209,
or 196.219 applies 13
to the telecommunications utility or alternative telecommunications utility.
196.20 (9) of the statutes is created to read:
The commission shall ensure in rate-making orders that a public 16
utility recovers from its ratepayers reasonable amounts that the public utility 17
spends on pension and other post-employment benefit costs. If requested by the 18
public utility, the commission shall prescribe escrow accounting treatment for the 19
recovery of public utility expenditures related to pension and other 20
post-employment benefit costs.
196.203 (4m) (a) of the statutes is amended to read:
(a) The commission may impose s. 196.02 (1), (4), or (5), 196.04, 23
196.135, 196.14, 196.197, 196.199, 196.207, 196.208, 196.209,
196.218, 196.219 (1), 24
(2) (b), (c), or (d), (2r), or (3) (a), (d), (j), (m), (n), or (o), 196.25, 196.26, 196.39, 196.395,
196.40, 196.41, 196.43, 196.44, 196.65, 196.66, 196.81, 196.85, 196.858, or 196.859 2
on an alternative telecommunications utility.
196.209 of the statutes is repealed.
196.31 (1) (intro.) of the statutes is amended to read:
(intro.) In Except as provided in sub. (2m), in
any proceeding before 6
the commission, the commission shall compensate any participant in the proceeding 7
who is not a public utility, for some or all of the reasonable costs of participation in 8
the proceeding if the commission finds that:
196.31 (2m) of the statutes is repealed and recreated to read:
The commission may grant no more than $100,000 annually in 11
compensation under this section to the consumer advocate, as defined in s. 196.315 12
196.315 of the statutes is created to read:
14196.315 Consumer advocate funding.
(1) Legislative statement of intent
It is in the public interest that there be an independent, nonpartisan 16
consumer advocate for residential, small commercial, and small industrial energy 17
utility customers of this state and that the advocate be sufficiently funded by those 18
customers to allow for the representation and protection of their interests before the 19
commission and other venues. All actions by the advocate funded under this section 20
shall be directed toward such duty.
In this section:
(a) “Consumer advocate" means the body created under s. 199.04 (1), dissolved 23
under s. 199.17, and reorganized as a nonstock, nonprofit corporation under ch. 181.
(b) “Energy utility" means an investor-owned electric or natural gas public 25
(c) “Municipal utility” has the meaning given in s. 196.377 (2) (a) 3.