[39 Pa.B. 3300]
[Saturday, June 27, 2009]
Public Meeting held
May 14, 2009
Commissioners Present: James H. Cawley, Chairperson; Tyrone J. Christy, Vice Chairperson; Kim Pizzingrilli; Wayne E. Gardner; Robert F. Powelson
Universal Service Coordination Working Group;
Doc. No. M-2009-2107153
By the Commission:
By this order, we establish a Universal Service Coordination Working Group (Working Group). This is a vital step toward effectively coordinating the residential universal service programs under the Commission's jurisdiction and coordinating these programs with other state programs. The Working Group's assignment is to develop recommendations to achieve these goals.
Our action in initiating this Working Group is timely, given the likely introduction of Act 129 funds into the electric distribution companies' (EDCs') portfolio of energy efficiency measures for low-income customers, as well as the increase in available funding for the State's Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) due to a recent three-year grant of $252.8 million under the Federal American Recovery & Reinvestment Act (ARRA).1 This additional money places even more of an impetus on the need for effective coordination between utility and non-utility programs.
By way of background, the Commission has been charged with overseeing critical universal service programs that provide residential customers with assistance in maintaining natural gas, electric and telecommunications services.2 These programs include energy assistance programs--Customer Assistance Programs (CAPs),3 the Low Income Usage Reduction Program (LIURP),4 and Company Initiated Hardship Funds, and telephone assistance programs--Lifeline and Link Up.5
The EDCs and natural gas distribution companies (NGDCs) have implemented CAPs. These programs provide low income customers with the opportunity to maintain their utility service by providing a reduced bill that is based on income and usage. LIURP helps low-income residential customers reduce the amount of electricity or natural gas used each month by installing energy saving features in the customers' homes. Customers who are eligible for these energy programs are usually also eligible for the Lifeline and Link Up programs and other state and federal universal service programs.
In addition to the programs under the Commission's jurisdiction, there are federal assistance programs that are administered by the Department of Public Welfare (DPW) and the Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED). DPW administers the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), which provides both cash and crisis benefits to low-income households. DPW is also responsible for the ''automatic notification program,''6 which provides welfare program recipients with information about telephone assistance programs. DCED administers the state's federally funded WAP. DCED distributes these funds to local governments and nonprofit organizations, such as community action agencies, to provide low income households with weatherization services.
At present, there is little coordination among these universal service programs. While this lack of coordination may not have interfered with the management of individual programs, it may have resulted in eligible households missing opportunities to receive comprehensive services necessary to ensure the continuation of affordable utility service.
Most importantly, recent events and changes in the law and in funding have demonstrated the need for coordination of these programs. Act 129 of 2008 requires Pennsylvania's EDCs to reduce the electric consumption of their customers by 1% by May 31, 2011, and by 3% by May 31, 2013. The EDCs must also reduce peak demand by a minimum of 4.5% by May 31, 2013. If the EDCs adopt new energy efficiency and conservation plans targeting low-income households, we encourage coordination of these plans with existing programs. ARRA greatly expanded the funding for the State's WAP administered by DCED. ARRA funding will provide the WAP with $252.8 million over the next three years. Given the current economic climate and expanded funding, there is a further impetus for more effective coordination of utility and nonutility programs.
It Is Ordered That:
1. The Universal Service Coordination Working Group shall be created to develop recommendations to coordinate residential universal service programs under the Commission's jurisdiction, and to coordinate these programs with other state programs. The Working Group shall also make recommendations on the feasibility of integrating these programs to establish a Statewide network of all utility assistance programs.
2. The Working Group shall be comprised of invited representatives from the natural gas, electric and telecommunications industries that have expertise in providing universal service to eligible customers. Representatives from the DCED and the DPW shall be invited to participate in the Working Group. The Office of Consumer Advocate, Community Legal Services, Inc., Pennsylvania Utility Law Project, United Way of Pennsylvania, AARP Pennsylvania and the Consumer Advisory Council shall also be invited to participate.
3. The initial meeting of the Working Group shall be held no later than 60 days after the publication date of this Order in the Pennsylvania Bulletin. The Bureau of Consumer Services with the assistance of Law Bureau will oversee the activities of the Working Group.
4. Interested parties may submit proposals or comments on the topics listed in the attached Annex and on other related matters or issues that should be considered by the Working Group. The proposals and comments will be used to develop an agenda for the Working Group's meetings. The proposals and comments shall be submitted consistent with the directions set forth in the Annex and shall be submitted no later than 45 days after the publication date of this Order in the Pennsylvania Bulletin.
5. The Working Group shall submit its final recommendations to the Commission no later than December 15, 2009.
6. A copy of this Order shall be served on all natural gas distribution companies, electric distribution companies, and local exchange telecommunications companies, the Office of Consumer Advocate, the Pennsylvania Utility Law Project, Community Legal Services, Inc., the Energy Association of Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Telephone Association, DPW, the DCED, the Consumer Advisory Council, Dollar Energy Fund, the United Way of Pennsylvania, AARP Pennsylvania, Aqua Pennsylvania Inc., Pennsylvania-American Water Company, United Water of Pennsylvania Inc. and York Water Company.
7. A copy of this Order and Annex shall be published in the Pennsylvania Bulletin.
JAMES J. MCNULTY,
Re: Universal Service Coordination Working Group; Docket No. M-2009-2107153; Solicitation of Proposals or Comments
Pursuant to a Motion adopted at its Public Meeting on May 14, 2009, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (Commission) is creating the Universal Service Coordination Working Group (Working Group). The purpose of the Working Group is to develop policy recommendations to coordinate jurisdictional universal service programs for low income households and to determine the feasibility of incorporating these programs into a Statewide network of all utility assistance programs.
The Working Group will include invited representatives from the Commission, the Office of Consumer Advocate, consumer groups, electric distribution companies natural gas distribution companies, telephone companies and nonprofit associations. The Department of Community and Economic Development that administers the Weatherization Assistance Program and the Department of Public Welfare that administers the Low-income Home Energy Assistance Program have been invited to send representatives to participate in the Working Group.
The Working Group is tasked with making recommendations to achieve the following goals:
Universal Service Energy Program Coordination
* Low-Income Usage Reduction Programs (LIURP)--Coordination among electric and gas LIURP programs
* Customer Assistance Programs--Coordination among electric and gas CAP and LIURP programs
* American Recovery & Reinvestment Act (ARRA) Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP)--Coordination of ARRA WAP with LIURP and other utility programs
Coordination of all State Universal Service Programs
* Determine the feasibility of creating a platform for sharing electronic lists of participants after resolving confidentiality requirements
* Determine the feasibility of coordinating the outreach for state universal service programs (LIHEAP, LIURP, ARRA WAP, CAP Hardship Funds, Lifeline/Link Up)
* Determine the feasibility of centralizing the intake/application/referral networks (LIHEAP, LIURP, ARRA WAP, CAP Hardship Funds, Lifeline/Link Up)
The Commission has directed the Bureau of Consumer Services (BCS) to oversee the Working Group. The initial meeting of the Working Group will be held no later than 60 days after the publication date of the order in the Pennsylvania Bulletin.
To develop an agenda for the Working Group's meetings, BCS staff requests that interested parties submit proposals on the topics listed previously. Proposals or comments on other related matters/issues that should be considered by the Working Group may also be submitted.
An original and two copies of each proposal or comment shall be filed with the Commission's Secretary at P. O. Box 3265, Harrisburg, PA 17105-3265. Alternatively, efiling users may file proposals electronically. All responses will be posted on the Commission's web site (http://www.puc.state.pa.us). To facilitate timely posting, each document should be submitted in WORD format and sent by electronic mail to Lenora Best (firstname.lastname@example.org). Proposals and other documents shall reference the previous-captioned docket and shall be submitted no later than 45 days after the publication date of the order in the Pennsylvania Bulletin.
Direct any questions about the Working Group and the process for submitting proposals or comments to Lenora Best at (717) 783-9090 (email@example.com) or David Mick at (717) 783-3232 (firstname.lastname@example.org).
[Pa.B. Doc. No. 09-1182. Filed for public inspection June 26, 2009, 9:00 a.m.]
1 American Recovery & Reinvestment Act of 2009, Pub. L. No. 111-5, 123 Stat. 115 (2009).
2 See 66 Pa.C.S. § 2203(7) and (8) (relating to standards for restructuring of the natural gas utility industry), § 2802(10) and (17) (relating to declaration of policy [electric restructuring]), and § 2804(9) (relating to standards for restructuring of electric industry), and § 3011(2) and (3) (relating to declaration of policy). See also 52 Pa. Code §§ 63.161--63.171 (relating to [telecommunications] universal service).
3 Policy Statement on Customer Assistance Programs, 52 Pa. Code §§ 69.261--69.267.
4 Residential Low-Income Usage Reduction Programs, 52 Pa. Code §§ 58.1--58.18.
5 Final Order: Lifeline and Link-Up Programs, Docket No. M-00051871 (May 23, 2005). See 66 Pa.C.S. § 3019(f)(1) (relating to interexchange telecommunications carriers; lifeline service).
6 See 66 Pa.C.S. § 3019(f)(5) (relating to interexchange telecommunications carriers; lifeline service).
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