Consumers could have more experts testifying in their behalf when utility cases are being decided by the Maryland Public Service Commission, under legislation being prepared by a Montgomery County state lawmaker.
Del. Alfred C. Carr Jr.’s proposal would enable customers of electric utilities, or other public service companies regulated by the PSC, to apply to the commission to be reimbursed for the expenses of witnesses and lawyers if the commissioners find that those experts brought significant information to the case.
Utilities would reimburse the customer or the group representing consumers at the direction of the PSC.
A few details of the legislation still are being worked out, but it is based on similar provisions in California, said Carr (D-Dist. 18) of Kensington.
The legislator said he is proposing the changes in Maryland to give consumers a way to counter the “armies” that utilities can muster to argue for what they want.
The utility companies could seek to recover those reimbursement costs, as they currently do with their own, through the rates they charge customers.
Baltimore Gas and Electric spokesman Robert Gould said he could not comment on the legislation because he has not had a chance to review it.
In an emailed response, Pepco officials said, “We haven’t seen a draft and don’t comment on any proposed legislation.”
Carr also is filing bills to require the PSC to make recordings of hearings and other proceedings available online through the agency’s website for at least two years.
Carr said he wants the public to be more aware and have more say because the utility regulatory system is “still broken.”
For too long the PSC allowed utilities to neglect infrastructure and allowed utilities to charge for service not delivered, he said.